By Greg McNeil
TC Media—Cape Breton
The successful bidder to construct the new Marine Atlantic terminal is expected to be announced shortly with a groundbreaking to take place not long after.
Tenders closed June 24 for the request for proposals for the building that will be constructed at a location on the opposite side of the marshalling yard from the existing terminal building and adjacent to downtown businesses.
“From our perspective, the sooner we can do a groundbreaking the better because we want to get as much of this construction season behind us as possible,” said Marine Atlantic’s vice-president of operations, Murray Hupman.
“We really need to start moving the project forward and I think we are really close from my understanding. It has to start this year for us. If it doesn’t, it pushes everything out by one year. That pushes us out past things like funding envelopes and things.”
Hupman said some legal items must be finalized before anything is official. According to the request for proposals, the new building will be modern, efficient, environmentally-friendly, and offer new amenities such as a commercial driver seating lounge area.
It will also offer customers closer access to North Sydney businesses.
However, some merchants have expressed concern over its proposed location in recent weeks.
Those concerns have made it to the office of Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking who was to attend a meeting between merchants and Marine Atlantic. However, that meeting had to be postponed while the Crown corporation dealt with an incident that saw the MV Blue Puttees run aground in Port-aux-Basques.
“The original outlay we saw, we are not that happy with it,” said Eyking. “We are hoping it can be moved a bit and have a little input in it before somebody starts pouring concrete.”
Eyking said merchants have told him they want the terminal closer to downtown to make it more visitor-friendly.
Some merchants are also concerned about a lack of consultation over the terminal.
Merchants also had the chance to express concerns to federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on Thursday as part of her tour of North Sydney.
“Eddie Orrell, our local MLA, brought it to my attention last week that the downtown merchants had a point of view and I asked if he would pull them together and he did,” said Raitt.
“They want to revitalize the area and they know that they have 400,000 passengers a year that come through the terminal and want to try to make it better. I think it makes sense.”
Hupman said Marine Atlantic is aware of the merchants’ concerns over the location of the terminal and expects a meeting with them to take place shortly.
“I would strongly suggest that we’ll have a meeting with the downtown merchants to see what their concerns are and to see if there is anything we can do to accommodate any of those concerns,” he said.
“Hopefully, it will happen in
the next week and a half or two weeks.”
Cape Breton Post