Woods Hole residents criticize ferry line

Scale of proposed terminal building and traffic are primary gripes.

The proposed site plan for the Steamship Authority's new terminal in Woods Hole.

The Steamship Authority held the second of two community forums on the landside portion of the Woods Hole reconstruction project Wednesday night over Zoom. The most recent estimate of landside costs is $26.9 million, according to SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll. Despite several design changes following past criticisms and concerns — including a number of significant changes to a utility building design — Woods Hole residents were light on praise and heavy on opprobrium on Wednesday. 

The scale and placement of a new terminal building and traffic were issues that dominated commentary. 

Woods Hole resident John Woodwell told SSA general manager Robert Davis and BIA.studio owner Chris Iwerks, among others, that Woods Hole residents previously voiced opposition to “the size of the building, the location of the building, [and] the orientation of the building.”

Woodwell described the proposed terminal building design as two times as large as the temporary terminal building presently in use, and questioned the justification for its size.

Woods Hole resident Eugenie Kuffler said she appreciated efforts that were made to redesign the shape of the terminal building windows, but she still deemed the building “too large.”

Kuffler expressed concern the new building would block views of Great Harbor and Woods Hole passage. Kuffler recommended the SSA freeze the project, reassess with experts, and “respect the village and its character.”

Woods Hole resident Stephen Laster asked for evidence the SSA explored designing the smallest terminal building possible.

Davis said the SSA has looked at “numerous versions of the terminal,” and the present design size is the “minimum size we can go to to meet our operational needs.”

Woods Hole resident Nan Schanbacher decried the traffic backups she has encountered on Woods Hole Road and at the Crane Street bridge, describing them as a safety issue for the residents of Juniper Point, who have no other way to come and go. “God forbid somebody on the point has an accident or needs an ambulance,” she said. 

Schanbacher said the backups are forcing people to drive in the wrong lane to get where they’re going, and that situation is going to get someone “killed.”

SSA board member Kathryn Wilson, Falmouth’s representative, described the traffic situation as something of “paramount” importance. 

Wilson lamented that both Woods Hole residents and SSA brass seem to be talking past each other and not making headway.

Reached Thursday, frequent SSA critic Nathaniel Trumbull asked whatever happened to Vineyard SSA representative Jim Malkin’s campaign pitch of “boats before buildings.” Trumbull described the terminal building as a “monstrosity in the making.”

Reached Thursday, Malkin said his philosophy hasn’t changed. “Boats are more important than buildings, absolutely,” he said. 

Malkin pointed out the current terminal design is smaller than it was, reduced in height, and reduced in footprint. “I’m surprised that people keep commenting on the height of the building when, until a few years ago, there was a two-story building right on the harbor that obstructed views,” Malkin said. “That building is no longer there.” 



  1. Please sign this petition at Change.Org http://chng.it/pjS2pGpm
    I think the temporary terminal is perfect. Isn’t there a huge new administrative building at palmer ave? Why do they need more at the terminal. I feel for the residents of Woods Hole. the whole situation is a complete mess. And the crowds are not gonna get smaller, but people might choose to fly more since there are so many cheep flights now and far more reliable and less stressful. If the SSA doesn’t figure out how to move forward in a reliable and trustworthy way they will lose business to the airline industry.

  2. I appreciate Jim Malkin’s affirmation of his “boats before buildings” approach. Other observations from Woods Hole village:

    1. The ticket office building footprint has not been reduced. The footprint of the previously proposed 2-story building was 53 ft x 103 ft, approx. 5,500 sq ft. The footprint of the currently proposed 1-story building is 60 ft x 123 ft., approx. 7,400 sq ft.

    2. The old 2-story building did not block water views from such Woods Hole village locations as Pie in the Sky and Crane St. bridge. The proposed location of the new ticket building’s location will be at the center of the WH terminal property and will block more water views of WH Passage and Elizabeth Islands than the old building.
    Another factor when comparing the height of the old and new building is that the old building’s ground floor began several feet lower than the ground floor of the new building will (requirement that the new building’s ground floor be out of the floodplain).

    3. Drivers and passengers in their vehicles waiting to go to the Vineyard will not be able to see the ferry boats as they come and go. This is due to the ticket building’s proposed location in the center of the terminal property and the building’s orientation (perpendicular to the water, 123 ft. in length).

    4. Buses will be arrive and depart from behind the proposed location of the new ticket building and not from the water side of the building.

    5. Discussion of the design of this “trophy” ticket building is taking place in a near vacuum of consideration of community preference for a Cape or island design.

    6. Financial impact on SSA ratepayers of the necessity and cost of such a large ticket building is never discussed.

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