SSA unveils new terminal designs

Three proposals are under consideration for Woods Hole.


The Steamship Authority unveiled three new designs for its new Woods Hole terminal, but whether any of them are palatable to residents and users of the ferry service remains to be seen.

Board members got the first glimpse at their meeting at the SSA administration office on Palmer Avenue in Falmouth. A vote on how to proceed will come at a later date.

When the previous designs were unveiled, Woods Hole residents and others complained about the structure blocking the view and not fitting in with the other buildings in Woods Hole. They even asked Gov. Charlie Baker to intervene by a petition now signed by more than 900 people.

The new height of the building is lower by 10 feet, and its width is also down by 10 feet.

Chairman Robert Jones, who represents Barnstable on the board, wondered if the SSA is making too many concessions. “I wouldn’t want to vote for something that is just marginal. Now is the time to do it,” Jones said. “Maybe the community won’t like it. But to go back would be a mistake.”

General manager Robert Davis told board members that the SSA worked with the Woods Hole Community Association, business association, and Falmouth Historical Commission.

Davis reported that it’s been difficult to meet the concerns by the community association, though they attempted to see if a one-story building would work.

“In summary, the experiment confirmed that looking from five feet above the sidewalk on the Crane Street bridge, the view of the water across Great Harbor to Devil’s Foot Island will be blocked by a building at elevation 27 feet above sea level, which is equivalent to the height of a one-story building at the required grade,” Davis said.

The building is required to be built on a reinforced concrete slab 17 feet above grade, he said, though the state has indicated it would allow a variance for 13 feet.

In the meantime, architects have concentrated on trying to address the concern about the look of the building by revising the designs with a three-story crossing gable roof design similar to the Woods Hole Community Hall. Two other alternatives — a two-story saltbox roof and a two-story gable roof — are also being considered. Heights vary from a low of 40.5 feet to a high of 58.4 feet at the top of a gable tower for the three-story building.

In all three designs, Davis said, the building’s length was shortened by 10 feet, from 123 feet to 113 feet, which added a 10-foot-wide walkway area on the building’s south side. “The reduction resulted from relocating the first floor employees’ restrooms and locker room to the second floor,” Davis said.

The remaining areas on the first floor are customer service–related and need to be located on that floor, he said. “The square footage of each of those areas is now as minimal as we believe possible while still being adequate for the purposes they serve,” Davis said.

Jones reiterated his concern. “When we’re taking off ends of buildings and things like that, it seems like we’re diminishing, diminishing, diminishing,” he said. “Are we boxing ourselves in for the future?”

No one from the audience spoke out either for or against the new designs.

The revised options are now posted on the SSA website at following Tuesday’s board meeting.

Two additional meetings have also been scheduled — one at Falmouth High School on Thursday, March 28, at 6 pm and the other at Katharine Cornell Theater in Tisbury on Monday, April 8, at 5 pm.

Written comments are being accepted through April 12 at or by U.S. Mail to the Steamship Authority, Attn: Woods Hole Terminal Designs, 228 Palmer Ave., Falmouth, MA 02540.

Following the public sessions, the Steamship Authority and its board members will review the comments and incorporate them into the decision-making process for determining the building’s design.

Davis told the board feedback from those meetings will be considered in the final design that will be presented to the board, Falmouth selectmen, and the Falmouth Historical Commission.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a $3.2 million capital budget, which includes a $1 million upgrade in the reservation system. “Obviously, it’s an integral part of our system,” Davis said.

There’s also $100,000 for the website, to upgrade and redesign it, he said in answering a question from board member Marc Hanover.

In answering a question of Falmouth selectman Doug Brown, Davis said the SSA has already purchased four new diesel buses. The authority is seeking a grant as part of the state’s settlement from Volkswagen to pay for electric buses to be added to the fleet, Davis said.

A third slip, which has been under construction for most of the winter, should be ready before Memorial Day, project manager Bill Cloutier told the board after a lengthy update on the project.