Boat Line Pursues Government Grants

Oak Bluffs Ferry Terminal Renovation Is Delayed Until Steamship Authority Acquires State and Federal Funding

By JAMES KINSELLA

The $10.1 million renovation of the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal and several other major Steamship Authority projects will remain on hold until the boat line succeeds in landing state or federal government grants.

Along with the terminal renovation, state and federal officials have passed over several other projects for which the Authority sought grants, including the $5 million mid-life refurbishing of the car and passenger ferry Nantucket; the $4 million mid-life refurbishing of the freight ferry Eagle; and $4.5 million for certain improvements at the SSA maintenance facility in Fairhaven. The boat line did, however, recently obtain a $750,000 state grant to help fund a $1 million shop building at the Fairhaven facility.

SSA general manager Wayne C. Lamson said last week that the boat line will not proceed on the other projects unless the Authority secures grants to help pay for them.

The state grants, under the Water Transportation Capital Improvement Program, would pay for 75 per cent of the cost of the project. The federal grants, under the Ferry Boat Discretionary Grant Program, would pay for up to 80 per cent of the cost of the project.

Although competition is stiff for the grant money, Mr. Lamson remains confident about the Authority's chances. In particular, he said state officials are interested in the proposed Oak Bluffs terminal renovation. Further, he said that the boat line does not need to start the projects immediately.

Getting grant money, Mr. Lamson said, holds down the amount of money that the boat line needs to raise from its passengers and commercial customers.

"I'm not really disappointed," Mr. Lamson said of the Authority's first bite at the grant apple. Speaking of the state grant, he said, "This is the first time we've received money under this program."

The state Executive Office of Transportation approved the $750,000 state grant for construction of a $1 million shop building at Fairhaven for the current fiscal year.

Mr. Lamson said the Authority likely will issue a request for proposals on the construction this month, with the boat line board of governors awarding the contract at its July 18 meeting in Hyannis. Once awarded, the grant money will remain available for the project.

He said the boat line will use the grant money toward the construction of a pre-engineered, modular building on the slab of a building that has been demolished.

The new building's footprint will be 125 feet by 60 feet, and its height will be 25 feet, which SSA managers said will allow the boat line to simultaneously work on a number of indoor projects. Further, a large trolley crane in the building will allow workers to move large components.

Of the remaining projects, Mr. Lamson said, the refurbishing of the ferry Nantucket is the priority.

"The Nantucket is ready to proceed this fall," he said.

In its application for the state grant, the Authority states that the "M/V Nantucket was built in 1974 and, after more than 30 years of service, is in serious need of a ‘mid-life refurbishment' in order to remain in service on its routes for the foreseeable future."

In an interview last week, Mr. Lamson said the Authority wants to refurbish the Nantucket before the Eagle because the former is older and needs more work. Of the two vessels, the Nantucket has a far smaller snack bar area, which the Authority wants to expand.

Also, the venerable Islander, the Authority's 56-year-old ferry, would be available following the end of its scheduled service this year to substitute for the Nantucket on the Woods Hole-Vineyard Haven run.

In addition, Mr. Lamson said, money may be available from the pending sale of the Authority fast ferry Flying Cloud to use toward the Nantucket work.

Proposed work on the Nantucket includes upgrades to the vessel's bowthruster for improved maneuverability and safety; upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, including the heating boiler; replacement of the decking in the mezzanine and passenger decks; replacement of all exterior windows; and sandblasting recoating of all exterior surfaces; and replacement of steel as required.

The Authority estimates that the vessel will have to be taken out of service for 150 to 180 days (about five to six months) for the work to be completed and the vessel delivered back to the boat line.

The other projects for which the Authority is pursuing grants are the refurbishment of the Eagle, similar to the work slated for the Nantucket; the renovation of the Oak Bluffs terminal, where the boat line would build a new passenger walkway on the south side of the pier, add two new vehicle staging lanes on the north side of the pier, and replace the existing 35-foot vehicle loading transfer bridge with a 50-foot transfer bridge; and construction of a new steel-sheet pile bulkhead, along with dredging, at the boat line's Fairhaven facility.