Bus to Bridgton? Meeting scheduled to discuss possibility

BRIDGTON TO PORTLAND LAKES REGION BUS could begin as early as next year depending on Bridgton’s support. Meeting slated for Wednesday. (Courtsey Photo)

BRIDGTON TO PORTLAND LAKES REGION BUS could begin as early as next year depending on Bridgton’s support. Meeting slated for Wednesday. (Courtsey Photo)

Commuter buses connecting Naples with Portland began service a year ago.

Extending the run to Bridgton was already baked into the plan.

Everyone supporting the Bridgton to Portland link was excited and eagerly anticipating the new bus service starting last July. But a few days before the service was to begin the Portland-based Regional Transportation Program (RTP) pulled out the spark plugs. Not surprisingly, the route to Bridgton was cancelled because of a funding shortfall. In discussions with RTP, funding the extended bus line to Bridgton costs around $15,000 annually.

The 20-passenger bus, which is handicapped accessible and features WIFI, would run weekdays, and make four-round trips to Portland with affordable fares.

“I think funding the bus through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds is a real possibility,” said Bridgton’s Director of Planning & Development Anne Krieg. “It would depend on the wishes of the selectmen; they may have other ideas for using the annual grant award.”

Krieg also noted that an approved and successful CDBG grant application would mean that the earliest the bus to Portland could begin is July 2015.

“Why wait another eight or nine months to launch the Bridgton to Portland bus service,” asks George Bradt rhetorically. “It is such a no-brainer. Let’s meet to do what we can to get this important service started as soon as possible so local residents can begin benefiting from the connection.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m. is the first meeting for anyone interested in gathering to jump-start the Bridgton to Portland bus is invited to the Bridgton Community Center, Room 1.

“We’ll begin discussing funding possibilities then start drawing up a Bridgton-centric action plan to get the RTP service extended,” said Bradt. “I’ll make the pizza and the whoopie pies.”

Last month Bradt interviewed several key players involved in getting the Lakes Region Bus to Bridgton last summer.

“Getting the bus service extended to Bridgton is important for several reasons,” said RTP’s Dan Goodman. “It allows residents a affordable way to access Portland, provides options to get to worksites outside the Lake Region, go to school, visit friends and family, or get to medical appointments.”

Krieg added, “Catching the bus to Bridgton is important for local merchants, workers with jobs here, and getting to Bridgton Hospital.”

One-way fares along the Lakes Region Bus route, cost $3 per trip, $2 for seniors. The bus travels along Route 302 and Forest Avenue, terminating at Elm and Congress in downtown Portland. Commuter passes are available. Bus service is suspended for 11 national holidays and during hazardous weather conditions.

The RTP’s bus stop at Bridgton’s Community Center has been approved. Applications for stops at Lake Region High School and Bridgton Hospital are at Maine Department of Transportation (MEDOT) awaiting approval.

Anyone wishing to be an active participant in getting the bus to Bridgton and can’t come to the first meeting on Oct. 15 please e-mail George Bradt at applewood1@myfairpoint.net. Anyone with questions about the project is urged to call 647-2389.

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