Oak Bluffs terminal opens

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A Steamship Authority ferry pulls into Oak Bluffs for the first time this season. - Laurel Schneider

The Steamship Authority’s Oak Bluffs terminal opened Wednesday for ferry service. Daily trips into the terminal have returned to the schedule, but vehicles bigger than a pickup truck won’t be allowed on the Oak Bluffs route because the repairs completed Monday are only part of the necessary repairs..

Work at the terminal was finished on Monday

The discovery of unsafe pier conditions delayed the opening of the terminal, and stoked fury in some Oak Bluffs officials. Already reeling from a pandemic-suppressed spring, the town was keen to see the return of ferry service, and hopefully a resultant spark of life in its tourist-dependent local economy. 

The repair work originally slated for the terminal’s pier called for the replacement of 35 pilings and 315 linear feet of piling caps. That work was judged too extensive to accomplish for a target date of June 22. A reduced project then got underway, whereby 13 pilings would be replaced and 24 feet of piling cap work would be done. The target completion date changed to June 15. In the course of executing that work, Coastal Marine Construction, the contractor for the project, had a piling accident that smashed a railing. No one was injured. Mark Amundsen, the ferry line’s director of marine operations, later noted that a subterranean obstacle stymied the driving of a particular pile to the desired depth, and it was encased in concrete to compensate. That piling could be seen with a concrete jacket Monday morning. 

Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll said the terminal didn’t open Tuesday as opposed to Wednesday, because Wednesday is when the next watch cycle starts. “Crews work on a three-day cycle, and Wednesday is the start of the cycle,” he said.

“My immediate reaction,” Oak Bluffs selectman Gail Barmakian said Wednesday, “is what a relief — for now.”