Auburn mulls having bus station at Great Falls Plaza

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AUBURN — A downtown bus station could be built in Great Falls Plaza, not near the Hannaford supermarket, according to city officials.

Councilors are scheduled to hear a report on efforts to build a downtown bus station at their workshop Monday night.

The city had planned to build the station on a trapezoid-shaped plot at the southwest corner of Spring and Drummond streets that would be leased from the adjacent Hannaford Supermarket on Spring Street.

But complications with the land has the city looking at other options, according to City Manager Clinton Deschene. And the best option now would be in Great Falls Plaza, he said.

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“We want public input,” Deschene said. “Are we decided yet? No. Once we hear public input we can move forward and make something happen.”

A public hearing about building the center in Great Falls Plaza is tentatively set for late November, with a council vote potentially in December.

“This is the original site they wanted, when we first started talking about this 12 years ago,” Deschene said. “The more we look at it, the better it looks. Now this is city-owned land, so that changes things.”

The Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee was given a $250,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration in 2002 to build a bus station in Auburn. The city will use up to $250,000 in Tax Increment Finance money to help pay for the center, in addition to the grant money. The station would be small, with room for a warm seating area, two public restrooms and a break area for drivers.

Original plans put the station alongside a proposed Great Falls Plaza garage in the parking lot near the Auburn Esplanade and Hilton Garden Inn.

That garage was not built, however, and the transit committee moved the hub for Auburn’s bus traffic to Spring Street, near Hannaford.

The city released a drawing of the planned Spring Street bus station in the spring, and Deschene said the city was still negotiating with Hannaford and the Federal Transit Administration.

Deschene said the main hitch in the negotiations came down to the lease on the land and the Federal Transit Administration’s preference to put the building on city land.

“I think one of the main reasons the FTA is happier with this location is that this is publicly owned, as opposed to having it on leased land,” Deschene said. “I think there were concerns about building something with public money on private land that could revert to private ownership. That was the big issue; that the Hannaford land was not available for sale.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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