SSA approves Wood’s Hole terminal concept

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.