AUBURN — It took more than decade, but city and state officials cut the ribbon on the city’s new Great Falls Plaza Transportation Center on Thursday.

“Yes, it has taken a while,” said David Bernhardt, commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. “I think we started talking about this back in 2004. So you have to thank, truly, the visionaries who wanted this. You have to thank them for their perseverance. I’ll tell you, there are a lot of projects that take quite a bit of time to get through the process. This did.”

The station is about 1,500 square feet, with a warm seating area, public restrooms and a break area for drivers. It’s on the northern edge of Great Falls Plaza, past the Hilton Garden Inn and Auburn Housing Authority’s Esplanade.

Citylink bus service will begin using the new station Monday.

The project cost about $750,000, paid for with a combination of city money and state and federal grants. The Federal Transit Agency set aside $247,000 in 2004 and the Maine Department of Transportation earmarked another $350,000 for the project.

Original plans put the center in Great Falls Plaza, alongside a city parking garage.

The garage was never built and the city began looking at a lot near the Hannaford supermarket on Spring Street.

Complications with Spring Street land ownership in 2014 convinced the city to move the center back to Great Falls Plaza.

The new station was initially approved in December 2014, but was delayed again by higher-than-expected construction costs.

“People need to understand how hard it is to maintain that level of continuity of support over multiple mayors and multiple city councils over the years,” said Phil Nadeau, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Transit Committee and Lewiston’s deputy city administrator. The committee manages Lewiston-Auburn’s Citylink system.

“So, thanks to Mayor (Jonathan) LaBonte and this City Council, but all the councilors and mayors before that who supported this project and the idea of building a transportation center like this,” Nadeau said.

LaBonte noted that the bus station was a key element in Auburn planning for years.

“What is key to that is having a central hub for people to connect to Auburn without having to be in a vehicle,” LaBonte said. “Residents, business visitors, tourists or others can use this.”

Bernhardt said state crews have started working on a third Twin Cities bus station, this one at Auburn’s Exit 75 on the Maine Turnpike. When that’s completed, Concord Coach Lines plans to bring Trailways bus service up from Portland, with stops at Exit 75 and Great Falls Plaza.

“So for the people of Auburn, this center is great for the connection to the Citylink system,” Bernhardt said. “But it will also help with the connection outside of Auburn.”

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