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.”