A mockup of what the new Bangor transit center in Pickering Square will look like. Credit: Courtesy of City of Bangor

The Bangor City Council on Monday unanimously approved a construction contract for a new bus hub in Pickering Square that will cost more than twice what the city had anticipated.

After more than a decade in the making, construction could begin as soon as the first week of September. However, due to challenges in sourcing materials, the project could take until late 2022 or potentially 2023 to finish.

The council approved a $3.4 million contract with Westbrook-based Benchmark Corporation for construction of what will become the new hub for the Community Connector bus system. While Benchmark submitted the lowest bid of four firms that bid on the project in June, its request was $1.8 million higher than the project’s earlier projected cost of $1.6 million.

The cost was more than expected because of soil conditions at the site, the volatility of the bidding environment and long lead times on construction materials, especially steel joists, Bangor city engineer John Theriault said.

Councilor Clare Davitt, who introduced the motion to approve the contract, said there had been some concern from the public that the hub’s placement on the council’s agenda Monday night meant the council could reconsider the project. However, Davitt said the opposite was true — it was just another step in the project’s development.

“We were lucky that the staff and Maine Department of Transportation were able to help fund this,” Davitt said. “We’re excited to see this getting underway.”

The primary discussion on the matter came after a public comment from Martin Chartrand, who said he supported the transit hub, but requested that the bathroom inside it be open 24/7 and
“outward-facing.”

City Council Chair Dan Tremble responded that the plans were for the bathroom to be accessible from the outside, but that it would likely be available for a majority of the day rather than 24/7.

The city had expected to pay for the project with a $1.29 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration that required about $322,000 more in local funds. However, faced with a 2023 deadline on using those federal funds and the unexpectedly high cost for the center, city officials sought and obtained a supplemental $1.8 million award from the Maine DOT.

The city will also be required to put up a 20 percent local match — or $448,000 — to receive those funds. Interim City Manager Debbie Laurie has said Bangor would obtain the match from existing city sources.