Bar Harbor terminal still not ready as end of Yarmouth ferry season nears

Senior transportation department officials from Nova Scotia visited Bar Harbor, Maine, last week to see for themselves what remains to be done to bring the town's ferry terminal back to life.

Deputy Minister Paul LaFleche said Wednesday "there's a hope" the facility will be completed by mid-October — traditionally the end of the sailing season for the ferry between Yarmouth, N.S., and Maine.

"Whether it will be or not, we'll find out," LaFleche told reporters at Province House.

The Yarmouth ferry hasn't carried a single passenger this season. Operator Bay Ferries decided following last season to move its U.S. port from Portland, Maine, but the effort to get the Bar Harbor terminal up and running has faced significant delays.

Nova Scotia is spending $8.5 million on the project. Last week's visit was the second to the worksite in two weeks for the province's top transportation official.

"I would characterize progress is slow," LaFleche said. "That's my personal opinion."

Brett Ruskin/CBC

Although the province has in the past blamed bureaucrats in the U.S. for delaying the start of this new service to Bar Harbor, LaFleche went out of his way to praise the project managers at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"Everybody's co-operating and everybody's trying to get this done," he said. "They've told us it's a priority for them. It's a priority for us. So we're working towards a conclusion."

The department's chief engineer, Peter Hackett, said Wednesday that exterior, plumbing and electrical work have all been completed, and IT systems are installed.

"I think it still needs a bit of work to get the walls in and some of the security features in there as well. But as far as construction, they're moving along fairly well in the building," said Hackett.

Security booths and overhead canopies are installed but not completed, according to Hackett.

"I don't know when the security, like the X-rays and that sort of stuff, are coming in."

'I am still optimistic'

The parking lot and loading lanes are scheduled to be paved next week. 

Despite the loss of most of the sailing season, as well as the remaining work on the terminal, LaFleche remained hopeful Bay Ferries would be able to sail between Yarmouth and Maine this year.

"I am still optimistic that we will have sailings this season," he said.

"The reason that I would like to see sailings is that we would like to ensure that we've fulfilled all requirements for the U.S. Customs and Border Security, and any other things we need to touch up, so that we can get an early start next year and have a really good season."