Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia paying $8.5M to fix up Bar Harbor ferry terminal

The cost to Nova Scotia taxpayers to renovate the Bar Harbor ferry terminal in Maine now stands at $8.5 million — $3.5 million more than expected.

Renovations costs are now pegged at $3.5M above initial estimates

The CAT ferry will run between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, starting in late June. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Nova Scotia taxpayers are handing out $8.5 million to renovate Bar Harbor's ferry terminal in Maine, running $3.5 million over cost estimates.

Costs were estimated at up to $5 million earlier this year in documents Bay Ferries filed in preparation for moving the CAT ferry's port from Portland, Maine, to Bar Harbor.

The money will go toward upgrading the facility — which has sat empty for a decade — fixing the dock and transferring a floating loading ramp from Portland.

In February, Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines said the province would pay for "at least some of that activity," but he couldn't say how much.

The funding will come from the province's 2018-19 budget, the department said Wednesday in a news release.

The renovation work began this year before a lease agreement to use Bar Harbor's terminal was in place.

The province is paying $8.5 million to renovate Bar Harbor's ferry terminal. (Google)

The work also includes demolition of some outer buildings as well as construction of spaces for the public and customs officials.

Updated security equipment will also be installed, including monitors used to screen vehicles for radioactive substances, equipment to read licence plates, as well as the installation of ticket booths and security cameras.

In January, engineering firm CES Inc., of Brewer, Maine, estimated the work would cost up to $3.75 million US.

The province is budgeting an additional $13.8 million to subsidize the operation of the ferry this year. 

The operating budget is up from $11 million last year, Hines said Wednesday, because a charter fee is now included in the costs.

'Very good expenditure'

As part of the increased budget, Nova Scotia taxpayers will pay salaries for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Bar Harbor facility. Hines said the cost of that service won't be made public until negotiations are completed. 

Passengers taking the ferry will pay a new $10 US service fee per person to help defray costs. 

"The tourism numbers are up, we know the tourism operators are enjoying better seasons and that's providing returns throughout our system, so we think it's a very good expenditure for taxpayers' money," said Hines.

In the three years since Bay Ferries took over the service from Nova Star Cruises, Nova Scotia taxpayers have paid more than $37 million to subsidize operations and pay for capital upgrades.

The new ferry route will begin operating in late June.

With files from Tom Murphy

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