SSA terminal critics appeal to governor

SMART Citizens Task Force petitions to halt Woods Hole project.

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Slip construction is underway ahead of a new terminal building in Woods Hole. - Rich Saltzberg

SMART [Southeast Massachusetts Regional Transportation] Citizens Task Force, a transportation advocacy group and watchdog that has amassed more than 800 signatures on a petition objecting to the Woods Hole project, is asking Gov. Charlie Baker “to intervene and halt the building of a proposed new Steamship Authority Woods Hole terminal area” until a regional transportation plan for Southeastern Massachusetts is created.

In the letter to Baker, task force representative Suzanne Kuffler wrote that the task force would like to see fewer ferries running to and from Woods Hole. “We would like a reduction of ferry service, especially freight service, from the village of Woods Hole with the introduction of freight service from off-Cape ports,” she wrote. “Development of New Bedford as a port for expanded service to the islands would facilitate connection with New Bedford’s large airport, its planned rail service, and its immediate proximity to routes 195 and 24. Such service would divert traffic from the congested Cape Cod Canal region, with its functionally obsolete bridges. This would both promote the economic development of New Bedford and preserve the appeal of the Cape as a destination.”

The letter describes the planned Woods Hole terminal building as “unnecessarily large” and out of character for the neighborhood. It also accuses the SSA of weak planning and being “unresponsive” to local concerns.

The SSA has met with opponents of the terminal project, though no design changes have yet been agreed upon.

Brendan Moss, Baker’s press secretary, did not weigh in on whether the governor was inclined or able to interecede in the Woods Hole project. However, he did comment on how it was financed. “The project is fully funded through Steamship Authority funds and bonds,” he emailed. “Neither MassDOT, nor the Commonwealth, have had a hand in funding this project.”

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times the ferry service received a copy of the letter on Friday. “We have been meeting for several months with representatives of the community, both from the Woods Hole Community Association and the SMART Citizens Task Force, regarding the Woods Hole terminal design,” he wrote. “We expect to bring the new design alternatives to our board later this month, after which we will hold community presentations and share the designs with the Falmouth Historical Commission. We look forward to the culmination of this design process in the near future.”

Driscoll also pointed to an error in the task force letter. “We do not yet have an estimated cost for the new terminal building, but it should be far less than $60 million. That figure has been used as an approximate cost for the entire project.”

In the letter, the task force clearly states the new terminal building is estimated to be $60 million.

“There is presently a temporary terminal building that will serve adequately until a thoughtful regional plan is developed,” Kuffler wrote. “Potential savings from the projected $60 million building cost by having a new community-approved, modest design would be better spent in developing New Bedford as a port for service to the islands.”
Asked about the $60 million figure, Kuffler said task force member Nathaniel Trumbull erroneously arrived at that amount. “He noted it was a mistake on our part, and that we will be sending a corrected version of the number to the governor,” she wrote.