SSA removes unused relic of 9/11 security measures

The peak of the canopy is visible in the background of this photo taken prior to the replacement of the passenger ramp. — File photo by Nelson Sigelman

With little fanfare, the Steamship Authority (SSA) this month removed the roof used to create a passenger staging area on the Vineyard Haven terminal’s pier in the aftermath of 9/11.

The Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 (MTSA), which was designed to protect the country’s maritime infrastructure against terrorist attacks, required the SSA to provide secure waiting and boarding areas that would permit several levels of security and screening of passengers and luggage, depending on the threat level.

In the spring of 2004, the SSA erected five modular, 30- by 30-foot canopies made of a strong, white, Teflon-like fabric able to withstand the weather, at the terminal.

For the most part, it was used to provide shelter from the sun and rain when long lines of summer passengers snaked through the parking lot.

Under the worst circumstances — a federal, level-three security alert — the new pavilion was to be used as a secure staging area for passengers who were then to be directed to walk through a mobile security trailer containing electronic security equipment, including metal detectors.

A similar canopied waiting area was constructed at the Woods Hole terminal in what was once an employee parking area at the rear of the ticket office. Because the layout of the Oak Bluffs terminal already allowed passengers to be separated when necessary on the extended pier, no security pavilion was needed.

The construction in 2012 of a new, longer passenger ramp at the Vineyard Haven terminal featuring multiple switchbacks designed to reduce the incline for passengers in wheelchairs effectively made the pavilion useless, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson told The Times. To reach the pavilion passengers would have had to duck under the ramp.

“Since it was not serving any useful purpose it was time to take it down,” Mr. Lamson said.

The ramp retrofit was required to comply with Massachusetts’s marine ramp requirements for people with physical disabilities as a result of a complaint filed with the Massachusetts architectural access board in Boston in 2009.

The SSA practice had been to allow passengers with disabilities or in wheelchairs to board ferries over the vehicle ramps and use an onboard elevator to reach the passenger deck. The SSA was faced either with applying to the access board for a variance or constructing compliant ramps.