Thursday, February 18, 2010

Portland: will Ocean Gateway be saved?

If you've been following Portland, Maine's eastern waterfront saga, there's a new development.

Currently, the people of Portland are shelling out some $400,000 a year to pay for the largely-vacant Ocean Gateway Terminal, a $20 million cruise ship and ferry terminal built under questionable economic assumptions. The cruise ship portion of the facility is useless, because it needs another $8 million invested to dredge a berthing area so cruise ships can actually tie up there. With The Cat gone, the terminal has no real function.

But the state made a Hail Mary pass to try to rescue this white elephant: an application for a federal stimulus grant to complete the megaberth as part of a $32 million Maine ports package. If approved, Ocean Gateway might at least be able to earn some income from large cruise ships, while sparing the Maine State Pier from the wear and tear of mooring the 100,000 ton vessels.

Yesterday the grant winners were announced, and Maine ports won, sort of.

The federal government approved Maine's application, but is giving the state only $14 million, less than half of what was requested. Now the ball is in Maine's court: will we spend more than half that grant money to rescue our stranded terminal investment, or will it go to other priorities? Who will decide, and what criteria will they use? One hopes the daily newspapers will ask these questions, but if they don't, stay tuned here.... [Update 2/23/10: No answers from the dailies, as per usual, but The Forecaster learned the mega-berth will not be saved.]

(Hat tip to Christian at Rights of Way, who has been following stimulus grants closely.)

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