WOODS HOLE — The long-term project to reconstruct the ferry terminal in Woods Hole is chugging along, but not without exceeding its $60 million budget by $10 million.
Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority General Manager Robert Davis was giving updates on the project at a board of governors meeting Tuesday when board member Moira Tierney began asking about the budget.
“Overall is it fair to say, am I reading it correctly, that the change orders and increased cost and the increased accounting fees and all the rest of it, has added a $10 million increase to the project?” Tierney asked.
Tierney was concerned about the budget, as the authority cannot afford to build a new shipping vessel without seeking additional funding, which will not be easy, she said.
One board member said the Steamship Authority was close to “falling off the edge” of its project budget.
After an open house at the authority’s administrative offices Wednesday, Davis said officials underestimated the budget, but the overspending was not unexpected.
“Most of it is not a surprise,” he said. “There’s another 4 million there that we knew was coming. We’re doing it as each phase goes along.”
Davis said the project has encountered bumps, such as an issue with bulkheads shifting and needing repair. He said the authority has $4 million in change orders, or variations in the work agreed to in the contract.
The ferry line has embarked on a six-year, $60 million project that will transform the Woods Hole terminal, including the reconstruction and realignment of the three boat slips at the site, demolition of the existing terminal and excavation of a large portion of the existing wharf.
When placing a bid for a contract, it is impossible to know what the contractor will encounter when drilling below the surface to install monopiles, Davis said. Acceptable depth for the design is about 100 feet, although shorter depths may be accepted under certain conditions, according to the Steamship Authority’s website.
The authority agreed that the contractor would cover the cost of working around an obstruction within the first 10 feet of pile driving, and the authority would cover the cost beyond that. Since then, the marine contractor has encountered obstructions while working, Davis said.
“Those are all things that we knew going into the construction that we were going to have that weren’t part of the original contract,” he said.
Davis said the boat line is looking for other opportunities to offset the project’s cost, such as applying for grants for solar panels. The authority already has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In addition to the monetary hurdles, the authority must go before local boards to get approval for changes in the project design, which still draws criticism from some Woods Hole residents.
“Hopefully the Conservation Commission will appreciate the work we’re doing and what plans we have here,” Davis said.
The commission approved an original order of conditions for the project in 2016. Since then, the authority has done site grading, dock construction and put up a temporary terminal building. The ferry line is now requesting an amended order of conditions for the newest version of the terminal and utility buildings.
Once the Conservation Commission approves the amended order, the authority will meet with the Falmouth Historical Commission for feedback on the updated terminal building and then move on to the schematic design of the building, authority communications director Sean Driscoll said.
The newest version of the project includes a one-story terminal building at the end of Railroad Avenue with a lobby, bathrooms and ticket booth. The new terminal building will be 6,888 square feet, 888 feet more than the two-story building originally proposed. The building also will contain the manager’s office and terminal agents office. An accessible ramp will go from the drop-off and pickup area to the building.
Solar panels will cover the roof, generating about 52% of the terminal’s energy use, Davis estimates.
The piers will be covered with a glass canopy, which will depict nautical charts of Great Harbor and Vineyard Haven and be able to withstand 90 mph winds. The water side of the terminal will be open to allow room for trucks to move in and out of the loading docks.
The terminal building’s elevation will be 13 feet, although the authority will have to seek a variance from the 17-foot elevation requirement.
“In order to do that, we have to floodproof the building, so we have to have material that won’t be (permeable) to water,” Davis said.
A two-story utility building will be on the side of the property and hold storage, an employee break room, lost-and-found area as well as a trash and recycling yard.
Many of the residents who attended the open house Wednesday were unsatisfied with the updates. They wanted the terminal building to be turned 180 degrees, perpendicular to the water.
“We’ll have the issue with the stormwater system that will be in place here,” Davis said. “Turning it ends up preventing a drive-thru area for our buses and for the Peter Pan and the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority.”
Moving the terminal building sideways also will affect the slopes for accessibility ramps, Davis said.
Some residents said they wanted to keep the temporary terminal building. Because it is not a permanent structure, it does not comply with hurricane codes, Davis said. The lobby is also inadequate to keep people safe during inclement weather, he said.
Some suggested moving the building farther back to allow buses on the water side so passengers do not have to walk as far to the ferry.
“I think they made some good improvements,” said William Roslansky, a Woods Hole resident and architect.
Roslansky mentioned some changes he would like to see, such as leaving the bike park where it is to preserve the current waterfront park.
Davis said the authority has been trying to listen to residents’ concerns, but it is also working within the constraints of the property.
“We do have our operation to run,” Davis said. “We do have a responsibility to patrons, and we have issues with stormwater management and accessibility.”
Although the terminal building is still in the concept phase, Davis estimated construction could start in the fall of 2021. Construction would run from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
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