The State Ports Authority is recalculating the cost of its proposed new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.

The estimated $35 million price for the new facility at Union Pier Terminal has been consistent in court documents and talking points essentially since the SPA unveiled the project in 2009.

Now the price is increasing.

The SPA staff recently estimated the project would cost $38.1 million, or 8.8 percent more. The terminal development was included as a line item in documents outlining expenses in the agency's upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The investment in the terminal is pending because of litigation filed to block the project.

Erin Dhand, a spokeswoman for the SPA, said the cost is going up as years pass and estimates change.

"We estimate the project to be $35 (million)-$40 million ... and will further refine the cost when we move forward," she said in a written statement.

Dhand added that the actual cost of the project will have to be approved by the SPA board.

Chairman Bill Stern, in a written statement, did not address the higher cost but said the terminal is a project the port "will move forward with once litigation is concluded."

"The cruise business supports the SPA's ongoing effort to diversify operations and cargo, helping it to continue to grow above the market average," Stern said in the statement.

The SPA had intended to replace its aging cruise terminal at the south end of Union Pier near the City Market with a new facility by mid-2012, but the plan has run into opposition.

Local neighborhood associations and groups like the Coastal Conservation League and Preservation Society of Charleston have filed federal and state lawsuits to block the deal, saying it will bring more tourists, congestion and pollution to the area.

In April, the groups asked the S.C. Court of Appeals to overturn an April 11 order by an administrative law judge who concluded the groups lacked standing to challenge a state permit for the terminal.

In a separate case, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled last year that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to review the effects that the terminal project would have on the Historic District. Gergel ordered the permitting agency to redo its study with a more extensive review.

As of Thursday, the SPA did not file the paperwork for the new permit, Dhand said.

Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, said the increased price for the new terminal is premature since the agency has not applied for a new federal permit or concluded litigation.

"It's a fiction at this point, and I think the $35 million was a broad estimate and the $38 million is like the revised estimate," he said.