BANGOR, Maine — For several years, a group of more than 300 employees at Eastern Maine Medical Center has been dubbed the Travel Team.
Each member of the team has sacrificed a prime parking spot at the State Street campus in favor of a spot in one of two satellite lots miles away from their workplace. They then were bused from those lots to the hospital.
“Have we grumbled? You bet,” joked Berta Burbank, director of patient relations at EMMC. “But we all agreed it was the right thing to do to allow our patients to park a little closer.”
Come next week, parking concerns will be a thing of the past.
Hospital officials gathered Thursday to ceremonially open the new five-story, 821-space parking garage on the EMMC campus, a $16 million project that was sorely needed, not just for employees but for patients, too.
“A patient’s experience begins the moment they drive on campus,” EMMC President and CEO Deborah Carey Johnson said. “We want to thank all the Travel Team members for their patience and willingness to compromise for patients.”
The project was approved by the city’s planning board and City Council last fall. Employees from Cianbro Corp. worked through the winter and spring to finish construction on schedule.
Charlie Cianchette, a vice president for Cianbro, said Thursday that a lot of people have been reluctant to support infrastructure projects in the last year, but he praised EMMC for recognizing the importance.
“I think everyone here can see how much this was needed,” he said to a cheering audience of mostly EMMC staff.
Before the new garage construction, EMMC had 2,061 parking spaces on its State Street campus, or about 535 fewer spaces than it needs for its patients, visitors and staff. The Travel Team was forced to park either in the Pickering Square garage downtown or in a lot on Sylvan Road.
Between parking lot fees and shuttle buses to the hospital, it cost EMMC about $500,000 annually.
EMMC has long-term plans to build a new $252 million upgrade of the main campus that would include a new patient care tower, new surgical suites and other improvements. Johnson said the new garage was a precursor to that future development.
“Before we could even begin to discuss further expansion, we needed to address this infrastructure,” she said.