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Todd Rebello, an Oak Bluffs businessman and former selectmen, makes his case to audience members for repeal of recent Steamship Authority rate hikes. – Photo by Steve Myrick

The Steamship Authority (SSA) met Tuesday, and took no action in response to an online petition signed by nearly 3,000 people that called on the boatline members to rescind or suspend rate hikes for passenger tickets, Islander excursion rates, and mainland parking that went into effect Jan. 1. About 10 people traveled from the Vineyard to attend the authority’s regular monthly meeting in Woods Hole and make the case for rollbacks in the face of falling fuel prices.

Steamship Authority board members fielded questions from ferry riders Tuesday morning in Woods Hole.
Steamship Authority board members fielded questions from ferry riders Tuesday morning in Woods Hole.

The SSA approved the 2015 operating budget, which included rate hikes, using an estimated cost of $95 per barrel for oil. The price of oil has since plunged to about half that cost.

“This is now creating a multimillion-dollar surplus, and thus should be reason enough to suspend or repeal the current rate increase,” said the petition launched by Todd Rebello, a former Oak Bluffs selectman and businessman.

SSA chairman Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, the Martha’s Vineyard member, called for a discussion of the petition as the first item of business, in order to provide ample opportunity for those in attendance to discuss the issue.

SSA general manager Wayne Lamson presented the members with a management report that outlined staff arguments against any rate change. Mr. Lamson said the SSA staff had reviewed current oil-price forecasts. He cited the Wall Street Journal, which predicts prices ranging from $47.15 to $70 per barrel, and the Kiplinger Letter, which forecasts oil will be trading at $70 to $75 by spring.

“Assuming crude oil prices average $65 per barrel in 2015, the authority will effectively spend an estimated $2,600,000 less in vessel fuel costs this year than the amount originally projected,” he said.

He said any fuel savings would be used for other projects, including work at the Vineyard Haven facility, repair of the Oak Bluffs dock, and dry-dock maintenance of the Island Home, which would cost more than previously estimated. Unbudgeted cost increases totaled $1,335,000, he said.

“Given the current uncertainty of fuel prices through the remainder of 2015 and the need to cover additional unbudgeted vessel and terminal repair costs of $1,335,000 from contracts awarded at the end of 2014, the staff is not recommending any changes to the rate increases previously approved by the board in October,” Mr. Lamson said in his recommendation to the members, which he read aloud at the meeting.

Petition politics

Mr. Rebello spoke to the issue at the meeting. He said about 1,700 people from Martha’s Vineyard, about 400 people from Nantucket, and about 300 people who don’t live here year-round but have ties to the Island signed the petition.

“I noticed a name that showed up on the petition yesterday,” Mr. Rebello said. “Tristan Israel, chairman of the all-Island board of selectmen, and a selectman in Tisbury. Greg Coogan, a selectman in Oak Bluffs, and Richard Knabel, a selectman in West Tisbury — they see validity in this petition.”

He said the Steamship Authority board and staff distorted and mislead Vineyard residents about fuel-cost projections. He addressed Mr. Hanover directly, referring to comments Mr. Hanover made during a meeting of the Dukes County Commission on Jan. 14.

“You made statements that the SSA hasn’t raised rates in four years,” Mr. Rebello said. “I’m not going to say that’s a lie, I’m going to say you misspoke. You don’t realize that in all the spin, you’ve raised the same rates.”

“I don’t buy your argument,” Mr. Hanover responded. “You’re framing it wrong again. The only people that benefit from anything that’s done here are the ratepayers.”

“You have dug in your heels,” Mr. Rebello said. “We will yell louder from here forward. If you take the savings on the fuel, it’s more than enough to cover the shortfall.”

Mr. Rebello took aim at $100 million worth of capital costs over the next five years, to include purchase of a new ferry, a new terminal, and office buildings in Woods Hole.

“If you build an office building in Falmouth, that’s not going to affect the way I travel on this boat,” Mr. Rebello said. “Be straightforward with people. Public trust is everything.”

Among several people speaking at the meeting was Tom Hodgson of West Tisbury.

“People on the Vineyard are increasingly stressed by the high cost of travel back and forth,” Mr. Hodgson said. “If they want to go to their child’s off-Island games, it’s costing them upwards of $100 just to get from here to there. It’s a real expense that has a serious impact on people.”

Marie Laursen of Tisbury questioned why the SSA spends money on advertising.

“The reason for all this expansion is the Steamship Authority is simply responding to demand,” Ms. Laursen said. “You are creating the demand, and using that as a basis on which to build business. You’re adding car rentals; that’s got nothing to do with running a ferry.”

Mr. Lamson said the SSA will receive income from renting counter space to rental-car companies, which may help hold down future rate increases.

At the beginning, and at the end of the meeting, SSA board members thanked Vineyard residents for coming to the meeting.

“I want to thank you all very much,” Mr. Hanover said.

On Tuesday, the members of the Steamship Authority (SSA) met in Woods Hole for their monthly business meeting, and politely listened to the backers of an online petition who have called on the SSA to repeal or suspend rate hikes that went into effect on New Year’s Day. The members, on the recommendation of boatline management, took no action on the request.

The petitioners made the case that the cost of fuel was one of the factors in the SSA’s need to raise an additional $1.9 million in revenue in the new year to cover increased operating costs projected for 2015, which also included vessel maintenance, employee salaries, health care benefits, and pension benefits. The drop in fuel costs, they argued, undercut the need for rate hikes.

Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, said that if the authority does end up with a larger surplus than anticipated next year, the extra money will automatically flow into the SSA’s special-purpose funds to be used to pay for the cost of its capital projects, which will help keep rates lower in the future. Big projects in the pipeline that need to be paid for include a $40 million boat and a $60 million reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal.

Petition backers pointed to their success in gathering almost 3,000 signatures. It is an impressive number and indicative of the power of social media to rally people to a cause, but their success should come as no surprise. Who would not want to see SSA fares drop? Or for that matter, plane fares, cable bills, grocery prices, and the cost of an ice cream cone in the summer?

These petitioners are going after the wrong fix. It would be as if a heart surgeon asked a patient who gets no exercise and eats sausage morning, noon, and night to cut back on the doughnuts at breakfast — it is not a matter of if, but when and where the future clog will occur.

SSA fare hikes are part of a never-ending cycle with no end in sight. And there is nothing in the past history of the SSA to suggest that had this hike not gone into effect, there would not be one in the future.

What is the solution? One petition signer called on the SSA to give year-round Island residents a break at the expense of tourists and seasonal residents. These would be the same seasonal residents — let’s call them the Island’s golden geese — that support our schools, paid for our $50 million hospital built without one Island tax dollar, and who subsidize our discounted excursion fares to the tune of more than 60 percent of the allocated costs, according to an SSA analysis.

Another petitioner suggested limiting the number of vehicles, to slow the growth of Island traffic. Of course, that would mean fewer geese on the ferries and a bigger budget hole that could only be fixed with a rate hike.

An online petition may provide a barometer of sorts, but it provides no basis on which to run a boatline, or any business. That takes planning and careful analysis, not just of immediate circumstances but of future trends. The last serious planning effort was a short-lived exercise that began in January 2001, when then SSA general manager Armand Tiberio presented an 11-page outline titled “SSA Future Ferry Transportation Service Model, a framework for discussion,” to the members.

In Mr. Tiberio’s model, ferry operations to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket would have become part of a larger transportation network in which short-term Island visitors would be pressed to leave their cars on the mainland in favor of fast ferry transportation to the islands. Mr. Tiberio described the service model as an integrated approach that balanced concerns over growth and cars on both islands with a need for the SSA to address rising operating and maintenance costs, aging vessels, and a growing year-round population’s transportation needs. Sound familiar?

Mr. Tiberio’s proposals were designed to shift the transportation focus of the boatline from vehicles to passengers, to make wider use of barging of petroleum products, and to use off-Cape ports, in particular New Bedford, in the reorganized service plan.

Nantucket member Grace Grossman was unwilling to consider change, and skillfully generated vehement opposition to any model that included the port of New Bedford, in the process scuttling any significant discussion of that plan or any other. The political blowback was an irritated legislature’s decision to give New Bedford a seat on the SSA board. File that one under unintended consequences.

Mr. Lamson saw the scalding Mr. Tiberio took. A careful and considerate man, he is focused on running the boatline, not making waves. The only remnant of Mr. Tiberio’s plan is private seasonal New Bedford fast-ferry service: a stepchild if there ever was one, generally ignored by the SSA, not embraced as it should be as part of a wider model.

Instead of trying to claw back a few dollars, or shift costs, the petitioners, and Island officials, ought to be pressing the SSA to hire a competent consultant to take a serious look at its operating model, which now is based on big boats and fare hikes whenever it predicts a budget shortfall. It is time to look decades down the watery road.

Five Corners remains a clogged transportation artery. Is it possible to move the terminal up Beach Road? The Martha’s Vineyard Commission first raised that option, and ought to apply some of its transportation-planning horsepower to another look. The South Coast Rail project would extend service to New Bedford. How would that fit into a transportation model? What will be the cost of the next big boat, and what might be an alternative? It is time for the SSA to undertake a serious and far-reaching look at its service model and how to best accommodate growth, which all trends point to as unavoidable in the future.

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Steamship Authority traffic in November and for the first 11 months of 2014 increased over the same period in 2013.

The Island Home did not make her morning run Saturday. File photo by Steve Myrick

In all categories, Steamship Authority traffic in November and for the first 11 months of 2014 increased over the same period in 2013, according to a business summary presented Tuesday at a meeting of the authority members.

The boatline carried 128,397 passengers in November 2014, up 1.4 percent over the previous year, and 2,169,327 year to date, an increase of 1.1 percent over 2013.

The boatline carried 12,656 regular-fare automobiles and 14,433 excursion autos for a total of 27,089 in November, a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year, and 367,461 autos year to date, a 1.3 percent increase over 2013.

Truck traffic was up 0.5 percent in November, and 1.7 percent year to date over 2013.

The SSA lost $2,012,236 in November, which was $206,172 higher than projected in the 2014 operating budget, due in part to $349,541 in unexpected maintenance expenses, management said.

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Marc Hanover told the Dukes County commissioners there will be no rollback of recent rate hikes.

On January 14, County clerk Joseph Sollitto (foreground) administered the oath of office to county commissioners (left to right) John Alley, Christine Todd, Leon Brathwaite, David Holway, and Gretchen Tucker Underwood. Commissioners Leonard Jason, Jr., and Tristan Israel are hidden from view. – Photo by Steve Myrick

Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority member Marc Hanover defended the authority’s business operations and capital improvement plans at a meeting of the Dukes County commission, his appointing authority, last week. Mr. Hanover, an Oak Bluffs businessman, also soundly rejected a call for the boatline to roll back or suspend rate hikes that took effect on Jan. 1.

Mr. Hanover offered an annual report and responded to questions from members of the audience who presented signatures gathered on an online petition signed by more than 3,000 people, calling for repeal of recent price increases.

Referring to a Letter to the Editor published in The Times on Dec. 3, signed by Oak Bluffs businessman and former selectman Todd Rebello, Mr. Hanover said, “Statements were made that net operating income disappears, plugs holes, and there are millions in surpluses. These statements are irresponsible, ridiculous. It angers me that somebody can go out and make false statements like this; it’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Hanover dismissed some of the SSA critics as uninformed. “The petition, I would have signed it myself, if I wasn’t aware of the reality of the situation,” Mr. Hanover said. “A lot of people have signed it. A lot of people that have signed it have no idea what the Steamship Authority is. I disagree with them.”

County commissioner Tristan Israel, a Tisbury selectman, asked Mr. Hanover to consider the effect of capital projects on ticket prices.

“The Steamship Authority makes a value judgement to build a $38 million boat, and on the heels of that, they make a value judgement to build a $60 million terminal in Woods Hole,” he said. “Our rates have been going up and up over the past decade. The petition is showing people’s frustration.”

Marie Laursen of Tisbury told Mr. Hanover ratepayers need a break from increased costs.

“The point of the petition is to address the rate increases,” Ms. Laursen said. “Is there any possibility that those rate increases could be put on hold temporarily, until $100 million worth of projects in the pipeline get discussed, and how that affects our rates in the future?”

“We need a break. We travel much more often than summer visitors. We’re going back and forth a lot more,” she said.

Mr. Hanover pointed to poor Island attendance at SSA public meetings. He said he is disappointed that few people attend the two SSA monthly business meetings held each year on Martha’s Vineyard. County commissioners agreed to facilitate an informational meeting on the Island, at a time and place yet to be determined.

Other business

The first county commission meeting of the new year began with a swearing-in ceremony. County clerk Joseph Sollitto gave the oath of office to county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, to begin a new six-year term. Then he swore in re-elected county commissioners Leonard Jason Jr. of Chilmark, Leon Brathwaite and John Alley of West Tisbury, Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, Mr. Israel of Tisbury, and David Holway of Edgartown. Also sworn in was newly elected commissioner Gretchen Tucker Underwood of Oak Bluffs.

Commissioners elected Mr. Brathwaite chairman, and Ms. Todd vice-chairman.
Mr. Sollitto also thanked retiring Martha’s Vineyard parking clerk Carol Grant for her public service. “I want to compliment, and let the commissioners know, she’s the best parking clerk I’ve worked with in my 34 years,” Mr. Sollitto said. Mr. Sollitto is the hearing officer for disputed tickets.

The commission offered its gratitude. “We’re going to miss you, and I want to thank you on behalf of the commissioners for the work you’ve done over the years,” Mr. Brathwaite said.

Ms. Grant said there will be no interruption in services, as senior financial clerk Donna Michalski assumes the duties of parking clerk.

“Thank you for your support,” Ms. Grant said. “Donna will pick up where I’m leaving off. It should be a nice smooth transition.”

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An oncoming blizzard is expected to disrupt SSA ferry service. – File photo by Michael Cummo.

An online petition calling on the Steamship Authority (SSA) to repeal or suspend rate hikes that went into effect on New Year’s Day had garnered more than 2,000 signatures as of Wednesday. Todd Rebello of Oak Bluffs is behind the petition, posted on the MoveOn.org web site.

Mr. Rebello, a businessman and former Oak Bluffs selectman, said the catalyst for his call to action is the recent drop in the cost of oil, but his unhappiness with the boatline is rooted in spending and management decisions that he insists have not been thoroughly vetted with Island ratepayers, who must contend with a high cost of living, and will feel the brunt of future cost increases.

Mr. Rebello pointed to the debt tied to the cost of a new $40 million passenger/vehicle ferry that will serve the Vineyard route and the estimated $60 million reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal and relocation of the boatline’s administrative offices.

Beginning Jan. 1, the discounted vehicle excursion fare for Island residents, parking rates at Falmouth lots, and passenger fares for all travelers increased.

Prior to an October vote to approve the hikes, Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, told the authority members the hikes were needed to cover increased operating costs projected for 2015, including fuel costs, vessel maintenance, employee salaries, health care benefits, and pension benefits.

In a recent email to The Times, Mr. Lamson pointed to the volatility of fuel prices and ongoing expenses. Mr. Lamson said the 2015 budget projects a net annual income of a little more than $3,000,000, which provides for “a very thin margin of error.”

Mr. Lamson said  if the authority does end up with a larger surplus than anticipated next year, the extra money will automatically flow into the SSA’s special-purpose funds to be used to pay for the cost of its capital projects, which will help keep rates lower in the future.

Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, the SSA’s Martha’s Vineyard member, supports Mr. Lamson’s arguments. In a telephone conversation with The Times Tuesday, Mr. Hanover said any unexpected surpluses would help lower borrowing costs and be reinvested in the boatline. And he noted, “This is the first rate increase in four years.”

Limit fares, traffic

The online petition states: “This past October the Steamship Authority Board voted a rate increase for January 1st 2015. This rate increase was voted to cover anticipated shortfalls in the current fiscal year budget. Included was a budget increase in the fuel oil budget line item of 2.5%. The Authority budgeted nearly $10 million for the current fiscal year for fuel. The fuel and oil markets have declined by roughly 50% since summer. This is now creating a multimillion-dollar surplus and thus should be reason enough to suspend and or repeal the current rate increase.”

Many of those who signed the petition added comments.

A signer identified as Kitty White of Vineyard Haven wrote, “The price increase, for no good reason, works a hardship on the residents of the islands.”

Kevin from Nantucket said, “Come on some of us are just working class trying to get to and from the island to see our friends and family and work.”

Joan Adibi from Edgartown asked for a cutback in rates and cars. “I would also like to see a limit placed on passenger vehicles granted access to Martha’s Vineyard especially during the summer months. Could a fare hike be combined with a slowing of traffic?”

Check in

In a telephone conversation Tuesday, Mr. Rebello said he began hearing from people in response to a Letter to the Editor he wrote critical of the rate hikes. That prompted him to examine the issue further. He hit upon the idea of an online petition.

“When I fired that online petition up the first of the year, I didn’t expect that it would get the response that it did,” he said. “The first day it was like wildfire.” Mr. Rebello said he has since been receiving calls and emails from people expressing concerns about a host of issues.

Mr. Rebello said he has listened carefully to the SSA’s arguments in favor of the rate hike, and he is not buying them. He said at the same time that the SSA said it would use any surplus to retire debt, it is preparing to take on $100 million in new debt.

Mr. Rebello said there has been a disconnect between major management decisions and the Island ratepayers. “I think people need to have their say,” he said. “They need to be informed and they need to know what it could potentially cost them down the road. And people need to know if we are talking about an expansion that could promote more traffic on the Island. These are valid issues that need to be aired.”

Mr. Rebello said it is time for Vineyard SSA member Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs to reconnect with his constituency and “check in,” perhaps through public hearings, when there are major matters and large capital expenditures. Mr. Rebello said he respects the time commitment made by Mr. Hanover and the other SSA members in what is a thankless public service.

“I don’t want to undermine Marc by any means, but you have to ask these questions and you have to stick your neck out to ask these questions. Marc is not going to be happy with me because I am challenging the Steamship Authority and he is the representative, but I can’t worry about that relationship, as I am reading the testimonials by people signing the petition saying they are really hurting financially on this Island.”

The former selectman and veteran of many political battles said he has no interest in becoming the Island’s next SSA member or in any appointments.

In recent years, SSA board meetings held on the Island have attracted little attention. Asked how that lack of interest squares with his call for SSA public hearings, Mr. Rebello said, “It takes something to spark public interest.”

A windfall

In a telephone conversation late Tuesday, Mr. Hanover said he was not surprised that the petition had attracted thousands of signatures. He said asking people if they want lower SSA rates is akin to asking people if they want lower taxes or lower electric rates — it is pointless and misleading, he said.

Mr. Hanover said he hates rates increases, but they are part of the larger management picture. The notion, he said, that the boatline can lower rates based on a recent drop in oil prices fails to take into account the potential volatility of the market and the fact that the boatline buys most of its fuel in the summer months.

“This is just a windfall with the oil prices, and I have no clue where they are going to be, and neither do the experts,” he said. “They start doing the budget in June and July. Last June oil was at $115 [ a barrel].” Mr. Hanover said the SSA cannot gamble with prices.

He said any surplus will not disappear. “I’ve got Oak Bluffs coming to me for a park and ride; well, that’s not in the budget. I met with the Oak Bluffs planning board, they want all new signage down there. That’s not in the budget. Tisbury is talking about a study, which they haven’t formally asked for, about moving the whole terminal. That’s not in the budget.”

Mr. Hanover said that he regularly briefs the county commission, his appointing authority, and that the SSA holds two public meetings each year on the Vineyard, often poorly attended. Mr. Hanover said he appreciates Mr. Rebello’s call for more communication, and is happy to speak about any of the issues confronting the boatline and ratepayers before any board of selectmen that would like to invite him.

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The Steamship Authority met Tuesday and approved 2015 winter and spring operating schedules.

The SSA's newest ferry is designed to carry freight trucks and passengers. — Illustration courtesy of the Steamship Authority

The Steamship Authority (SSA) met Tuesday morning in Vineyard Haven and voted on a name for its new $43 million passenger/vehicle ferry, approved 2015 winter and spring operating schedules, and promised new changes down the line that will include improved passenger WiFi and electronic passenger ticketing.

Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg expressed concern about shoaling in the harbor linked to the need for SSA ferries to turn around.
Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg expressed concern about shoaling in the harbor linked to the need for SSA ferries to turn around.

The SSA had narrowed the name choices for its new ferry, scheduled to replace the Governor in spring 2016, to Quissett and Woods Hole. On a motion by Falmouth member Catherine Norton, seconded by Vineyard member Marc Hanover, the board voted on Woods Hole.

A contract for the boat’s construction is expected to be awarded in December. The single-ended boat will have an uncovered back deck and be capable of carrying 384 passengers and 50-55 cars or 10 semi-trailer trucks. It will serve as a replacement for the aged Governor, which will be sold or scrapped. The Governor’s new $3 million engines will replace the engines on the Sankaty, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said.

In response to questions from Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur, Mr. Lamson explained that the decision to go with a single end design as opposed to a double-ender was based on cost and the need to service Nantucket. A double-ender would have exceeded the authority’s budget, he said.

The SSA approved the 2015 spring and winter operating schedules with few changes from last year. The winter schedule will start four days later, on January 6, and end one day later, on April 14. The spring schedule will start one day earlier, on April 15, and end one day later, on May 14.

Mr. Lamson also presented the board members with a list of proposed goals for the next 12 months. Mr. Lamson said his goals include oversight of several SSA construction and maintenance projects, as well as improved passenger WiFi and an electronic ticketing system that would allow passengers to purchase tickets online.

Business report

SSA board member Marc Hanover listens to the opinion of his fellow board members.
SSA board member Marc Hanover listens to the opinion of his fellow board members.

Total operating revenues for May increased by $163,317, or 1.9 percent versus the amount projected in the 2014 operating budget, for a total of $8,821,483 in operating revenues. Passenger revenues for the month were up $53,000 versus budget projections, which represents a 2 percent increase. Automobile revenues were up $33,000, or 1.3 percent, versus projections for May. Freight revenues were up $80,000, or 3.1 percent, versus budget projections for the month.

Year-to-date operating revenues through May increased by $496,553, or 2.1 percent, versus the amount projected in the 2014 operating budget, for a total of $24,532,583. Passenger revenues for the year were up $57,000 versus budget projections, which represents a 0.9 percent increase. Automobile revenues were up $14,000, or 0.2 percent, versus budget projections for the year. Freight revenues were up $334,000, or 3.8 percent, versus budget projections for the year. Year-to-date, the vessels have made 7,312 trips. This represents a decrease of 114 trips, or 1.55 percent versus budget.

The SSA transferred a $2.9 million surplus to the special purpose fund, which will go towards the new Woods Hole terminal and ferry slip repairs. A price estimate for the project, expected to be between $40 and 60 million, will be presented by the architecture firm Bertaux+Iwerks by the end of the year.

SSA board members Catherine Norton of Falmouth and Jack Tierney of New Bedford did not attend the meeting, but they participated via conference call.

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An aerial view of the Woods Hole Steamship Authority terminal shows the two slips, parking area and ticket and administration building. — Photo courtesy of Google Maps

The Steamship Authority (SSA) Tuesday approved a revised design concept for the Woods Hole terminal that addressed concerns that the distance between the passenger dropoff and pickup areas and the ferry slips.

The SSA plans to refurbish two slips and move a third ferry slip slightly to the south of it present location on the north side of the current terminal, which would be demolished and rebuilt in a new location. The SSA would also reconfigure the parking lots and bus lanes. The design, known as Concept E, will advance to final design, cost estimate, and permitting stages once a feasibility study is completed in July by the firm Bertaux + Iwerks Architects.

“There was no opposition to concept E,” SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said in a telephone conversation with The Times following the meeting on Tuesday. “We approved it unanimously. This is the best plan we have considered, resolves many of the issues we confronted, and was one of the cheapest alternatives. There’s always tradeoffs, but this new design has more benefits than any of the others.”

Several previous concepts were eliminated on the basis of cost, distance from the new building to the walk-on ramps, elevation adjustments to meet post-Hurricane Sandy regulations, and opposition from residents and businesses in Woods Hole concerned about water views and noise.

Mr. Lamson emphasized the timetable and importance of the changes. “All the bulkheads are starting to reach their life expectancy, and we should replace them when we can, not when we have to,” he said. “The new slip will be where the building is now, so we need to move that. It will be approximately where the busses are now. We are also consolidating parking. This concept is still being fine-tuned, for the permitting process, which will take between 18 and 24 months once the architects complete their feasibility plan, which we’re hoping to wrap up next month.”

The project is estimated to cost $45 to $65 million, primarily because of the slip replacements.

A more accurate number will be presented at the authority’s 2015 operating budget meeting in September, once a cost evaluation has been completed by the architecture firm. Funding will come primarily from the authority’s replacement fund, as well as possible federal funding and rate increases.

“The replacement fund receives $9 million each year, and if we can earmark 75 percent of that for Woods Hole, it will pay for the $30 million required to replace the bulkheads,” Mr. Lamson said. “We don’t have a solid estimate for the overall cost, but we considered projects ranging from $45 to $65 million. We’re also going to look into federal grants. Rate increases are a last resort but would happen anyway as operating costs increase.”

He said the 2015 operating budget will also include a five-year projection, which will specify any rate increases.

Mark Hanover, Martha’s Vineyard SSA board member, said the work is necessary, but he is concerned about costs.

“This is work that desperately needs to be done,” he said in a conversation with The Times prior to the meeting. “I would love to do the Cadillac design, if that won’t impact the Island. I couldn’t vote for the last two. If I don’t see how we can do it affordably, then I won’t support it, but this seems to be the best plan.”

“We should have a final model and cost estimate by the end of the year. I don’t think this will change rates, but through the years they’re going to go up. For now, reservations are up, and we’re hoping for a good summer.”

The SSA is also constructing a new freight/passenger ferry. A contract will be awarded at end of the year, aimed at putting the ferry in operation for the summer of 2016.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the SSA has only two slips. It has three slips.

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The SSA approved this version of the new Woods Hole terminal design. — Illustration courtesy of the Steamship Authority

The Steamship Authority (SSA) Tuesday approved a “preferred alternative” design concept for a new Woods Hole terminal with the caveat that “the site’s accessibility is improved for individuals with disabilities between the ferry slips and the proposed customer drop-off and pick-up areas,” according to a management report of the meeting.

The design concept features a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront, with a two-story terminal building about 240 feet back from the slips, and a shuttle bus drop-off area behind the terminal.

The board met Tuesday in New Bedford. Bertaux + Iwerks Architects will now create cost estimates and conceptual drawings.

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The SSA approved this version of the new Woods Hole terminal design. — Illustration courtesy of the Steamship Authority

The Steamship Authority presented a revised design of its proposed new Woods Hole terminal at its monthly meeting Tuesday. The new plan incorporated several changes intended to mollify critics.

At the request of the Woods Hole community working group, SSA management had asked Bertaux + Iwerks Architects to evaluate several possible variations of the “single level” and “split level” alternative design concepts presented last November.

The size of the proposed terminal has been reduced to be more in line with the Vineyard Haven terminal, according to a management synopsis of the meeting, and it will be two stories to reduce its footprint and open up water views.

Other modifications include adding a plaza area and eliminating an elevated passenger walkway between the terminal and ferry slips. The SSA members will consider management’s recommended design when it meets next month.

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The Steamship Authority hopes to have a new freight vessel in service within two years.

The new vessel is designed to carry 10 tractor trailer trucks and 385 passengers. — Illustration by Elliott Bay Desi

The Steamship Authority (SSA) is finalizing design plans for a new freight ferry intended to take some of the pressure off larger boats carrying freight and passengers to and from the Islands.

The SSA board is also engaged in the design process for a new terminal in Woods Hole that has raised the hackles of some residents the small port community who object to its proposed size and location.

Marc Hanover, Vineyard SSA member, estimates it will be two years before the launch of the new ferry. He made the rounds of local government boards last week to update town leaders on plans for the new boat, as well as plans for the new terminal.

Preliminary plans for the new freight vessel show a 235-foot boat capable of carrying 10 fully loaded tractor trailer trucks, or 55 cars, as well as 385 passengers.

The aft part of the freight deck is open, a feature which will save costs.
The aft part of the freight deck is open, a feature which will save costs.

Cost estimates of the new boat vary widely, depending on options and contingencies, but Mr. Hanover said the price tag is beginning to firm up. “I think the boat is going to come in at about $35 million,” he said in a meeting with Dukes County Commissioners at their April 9 meeting. “The Steamship Authority has ample replacement funds. This should not affect fares.”

Designed by the Seattle firm Elliott Bay Design Group, the vessel features a drive on, drive off freight deck, covered on the forward part of the ship, but open aft.

Mr. Hanover said new design includes many features to save fuel and operating costs.

“It will use 9.5 gallons of fuel per mile, with lower emissions,” he said. “We can crew it with a freight boat crew; that’s $200,000 savings per year. We expect very few cancellations. It has a high profile, but it is also lightweight.”

County commissioner Melinda Loberg, a member of the Tisbury harbor advisory committee and candidate for selectman, questioned the “single-ended” design. Tisbury waterway regulations require all new ferries longer than 150 feet to be “double-ended,” to avoid the need to turn around in the busy harbor.

In a phone interview with The Times Sunday, Mr. Hanover said a double-ended design would add $2 million to the cost of the boat. While he promised to work with Tisbury on the design, he said it is unclear whether the local waterway regulation is binding on the Steamship Authority, an autonomous agency created by the Massachusetts state legislature. He said the process of gathering recommendations from local communities will be different than it was when the Island Home was in its design phase.

“The Island Home was a fiasco, I felt,” Mr. Hanover said. “The process was painful. We’ve already got a predetermined design. This is what the captains want, this is what the management wants, we’ll ask if there are any other considerations.”

He said the design plans will not be set until the Steamship Authority board votes on the final design.

Preliminary plans for a new terminal include a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront.
Preliminary plans for a new terminal include a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront.

Terminal plans

The Steamship Authority is also moving forward with plans to rebuild the Woods Hole terminal. The latest design concept features a large area for vehicles to line up directly on the waterfront, with a two-story terminal building about 240 feet back from the slips, and a shuttle bus drop-off area behind the terminal.

At the request of the Woods Hole community working group, SSA management had asked Bertaux + Iwerks Architects to evaluate several possible variations of the “single level” and “split level” alternative design concepts presented last November that open up the water view as much as possible, according to a management report of the March authority board meeting.

The architects were also asked to develop an additional design concept that relocates the terminal building to where the SSA’s freight shed is currently located. SSA management is expected to present a preferred design concept to Authority members when they meet on April 22 in Woods Hole.

“This is a little frightening because of the money involved,” Mr. Hanover said. “Woods Hole is the last terminal to be renovated. It’s on wood pilings that are starting to fail. I think they were put in in the 1800s.”

Mr. Hanover is critical of organized opposition to the plans. He said Steamship Authority management has already made too many concessions to a working group representing the Woods Hole community.

“A lot of these people are worried about the view from the bridge,” Mr. Hanover said. “I didn’t understand what they were talking about, because the only view I want to see is which boat is in the slip.”

Mr. Hanover said he has concerns with the current design about the distance passengers must walk from the terminal or shuttle buses to board boats. “We need to make it like people don’t feel they’re on a cross-country hike to get to the boat,” he said.