SSA breaks ground in Falmouth

The Steamship Authority terminal building in Woods Hole. Construction is underway to replace it. —John Phelan/ Wikipedia Commons

There is a big hole in the Palmer Avenue parking lot in Falmouth where the new administrative offices of the Steamship Authority will eventually be located. The building is due to be completed by the end of 2017. The project is part of a multiyear capital undertaking that will include construction of a new terminal building in Woods Hole, as well as other changes to the waterfront.

Construction of a temporary terminal building is expected to be complete by June 2017, ahead of the busiest tourist season, said Wayne Lamson, general manager of the Steamship Authority (SSA) in a recent phone call with The Times. The temporary terminal will be a modular building manufactured by Triumph Modular of Littleton, according to a summary of the most recent SSA board meeting on Nov. 15. The contract awarded was for $2,591,182.

“We’re in the first phase [of the multiyear project],” Mr. Lamson said. “By 2018, we expect to demolish the current terminal building.” In addition to construction of the new terminal, the ferry slips will also be extended out by 70 feet, and Slip No. 3 will be moved southward to make more room for the Naushon Trust ferry to the Elizabeth Islands.

“We need to keep two ships operating through the winter,” Mr. Lamson said. “If one boat is canceled, we don’t want to be without options.”

According to Mr. Lamson, work will continue during off-seasons through 2023, as one slip is moved per year. The new ticket office and terminal construction are planned for 2021–22, with landscaping being finished up in the final season.

The SSA has spent several years in a permitting and design process. This has included forming a working group with Woods Hole community members and businesses. “We asked them, ‘What would make this successful for you?’” said Mr. Lamson. A proposed second level over the existing staging area was considered by the SSA, but rejected by the working group. “The community members didn’t like that concept,” he said. “It was in the way of their view.”

The only remaining permitting hurdle is a Chapter 91 license, the part of state law ensures that the public has access to the tidelands, from the state Department of Environmental Protection. The town of Falmouth, Mr. Lamson said, didn’t like the language in the permit application, and filed an appeal. The hearing is on Jan. 27, 2017.

When the project is completed, the footprint of the terminal will not have changed. The administrative offices — there are approximately 70 employees — were relocated to Palmer Avenue in order to achieve this. Mr. Lamson said that the SSA searched for a property right in Woods Hole, but was unable to find a suitable location. He admitted that having the ticket office and the administration so far apart might pose “some challenges.”