A crowd gathered outside of the new Bangor Area Transit Center in Pickering Square on Friday to celebrate the ceremonial grand opening, Dec. 9. 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Bangor celebrated the grand opening of its new regional bus hub in Pickering Square on Friday, but the station won’t be functional until next week while crews put finishing touches on the building.

When passengers and buses start using the Bangor Area Transit Center on Wednesday, the station will serve as the central hub for the Community Connector, the regional bus system services Bangor, Brewer, Orono, Hampden, Old Town, Veazie and the University of Maine.

The transportation hub gives people a climate-controlled indoor space to wait for the bus, buy tickets and get schedule information. The building also offers a covered outdoor waiting area, public bathrooms, charging stations and heated sidewalks to melt ice and snow.

Its opening marks the end of a years-long process that included a debate over where in the city to locate the transit center, and a remodel of Pickering Square through extensive landscaping, reworking the entrance to the downtown parking garage and removal of the old bus station, which was in the garage.

Senator Susan Collins speaks at the ceremonial grand opening of the new Bangor Area Transit Center in Pickering Square on Friday. Behind Collins are Laurie Linscott, Community Connector Superintendent and Bruce Van Note, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner, Dec. 9. 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The city hopes the new bus station will “change the public transit culture in Bangor” and “make transit cool,” encouraging more people to use the resource that has served the Bangor region for 50 years, Community Connector Superintendent Laurie Linscott said.

City, state and federal officials, alongside U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, touted the combination of local, state and federal efforts and funding that brought the years-long project to life during the grand opening ceremony on Friday.

“This project is a great example of what we can accomplish when we all pull in the same direction,” said Bruce Van Note, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. “Projects like these make real differences in people’s lives, especially these kinds of services in more densely populated areas. This will serve an important need while helping to reduce the transportation sector’s impact on the climate.”

Last year, the City Council approved a $3.4 million contract with Westbrook-based Benchmark Corp. to build the bus station. Though the developer’s bid was the lowest submitted, it was still $1.8 million higher than the project’s original cost estimate of $1.6 million.

Ultimately, the station cost the city more than $3.5 million, Linscott said.

The city has received more than $6.5 million in Federal Transit Administration grants since 2018 to build the transit center, new bus shelters, and buses, according to Collins.

“Creating a new bus hub has been a long time in the making,” Bangor City Council Chair Rick Fournier said. “Now that it’s complete, I have no doubt that it will become a great community asset for Bangor and the surrounding communities.”

Bangor celebrated the ceremonial grand opening of its new Bangor Area Transit Center in Pickering Square on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022/ Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...