This project represents the culmination of years of partnering and planning to create a welcome center and transit hub for Downeast Maine and Acadia National Park. Once completed, the Acadia Gateway Center will serve as a location where visitors can access regional tourism information, purchase park entrance passes, and connect with transit options to help them explore the region car-free. This project will incorporate several sustainability features, including a geothermal heating and cooling system, a rooftop solar panel array, and electric vehicle charging stations.
"Partnerships and perseverance pay off," said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of MaineDOT. "The team at MaineDOT is proud to be delivering this long-awaited project. We are grateful to our partners at the Federal Transit Administration, the National Park Service, Friends of Acadia, and Downeast Transportation. Not only will the Acadia Gateway Center enhance the experiences of the millions of visitors who come to this region every year, but also it will have long-lasting economic and sustainability impacts on the Downeast region."
The new Acadia Gateway Center is being constructed on a site in Trenton that sits between Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island. Its location was designed to intercept traffic traveling south on Route 3 before arriving onto Mount Desert Island.
"The Town of Trenton is pleased to see the completion of this project," said Fred Ehrlenbach, First Selectman for the Town of Trenton. "The permitting of the Acadia Gateway Center and the Downeast Transportation facility is the result of collaboration between MaineDOT and the town. Hopefully, the visitors and locals alike will take advantage of this free transportation service."
With nearly four million visits, Acadia National Park was the fifth most visited national park in 2022. According to a recent report by the Maine Office of Tourism, visitors to Downeast Maine (including Acadia) had an economic impact of more than $1.5 billion last year.
"National Parks are a popular destination for travelers, and as one of the most visited, Acadia is a major draw for travel to Maine," said Steve Lyons, Director of the Maine Office of Tourism. "The new transportation hub in Trenton will improve the visitor experience with expanded park access and information about regional and statewide attractions."
Current construction represents the final two phases of work that began more than 20 years ago. The first phase, completed in 2012, included the construction of a park-and-ride lot as well as office space and a bus maintenance facility for Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer shuttle.
"First enshrined in a memorandum of understanding among 20 partners in 1999, completion of the Acadia Gateway Center marks the realization of Island Explorer's Phase 3 and the culmination of a quarter century of planning, partnership, and perseverance," said Paul Murphy, Executive Director of Downeast Transportation, Inc. "We stand on the shoulders of visionaries, too many of whom are gone and unable to see the ultimate fruit of their great work, for which we are unspeakably grateful."
The Friends of Acadia began working on this project with the other partners in 2002. In 2007, FOA purchased the land being used for the park-and-ride lot, bus maintenance facility, and welcome center and sold it to MaineDOT. The group has remained a partner throughout planning efforts and is funding part of the Acadia Gateway Center construction.
In addition to private support from Friends of Acadia and public support from MaineDOT, the National Park Service and Federal Transit Administration are also providing funding for the Acadia Gateway Center.
In March, MaineDOT awarded the Acadia Gateway Center construction contract to Nickerson & O'Day of Brewer for $27.7 million. The project is scheduled to be finished by May 2025.