Motorists looking to park their cars before boarding the Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole to the Vineyard at the height of summer have often experienced confusion.
Accustomed to parking close to the ferry, they breeze past the flashing sign on Route 28 advertising the Cataumet, Gifford or Sun lots, only to be told at Palmer avenue to turn back.
But those days are numbered.
If all goes according to plan, the SSA will open a consolidated parking lot on Thomas B. Landers Road in East Falmouth by June of 2015.
The lot will accommodate 1,900 vehicles, replacing the Cataumet, Gifford and Sun overflow lots.
At their meeting in Hyannis this week, boat line governors voted to award a $5.175 million contract for the construction of the parking facility to Lawrence-Lynch Corporation of Falmouth, the low bidder on the project.
The single-level parking lot will be paved with porous asphalt which is designed to manage storm water runoff.
Before construction can begin, the SSA will finalize the purchase of the 18.59-acre lot by Oct. 2 and remove several buildings from the site, which was formerly a concrete company.
The lot is located a mile off Route 28 in East Falmouth.
In another big ticket project, the boat line is preparing to send final plans for the new freight ferry Woods Hole to the U.S. Coast Guard for review.
Construction of that ferry, which is now estimated to cost $41 million, should be complete by April 2016.
The ferry will replace the freight ferry Governor, and will travel both the Nantucket and Vineyard routes. But while the Governor and the Island Home have wheelhouses that face both directions, which allows the ferry to be driven in either direction without turning around, the new ferry will be single ended and have a wheelhouse facing one direction.
This has been a sticking point with the town of Tisbury, which has advocated for the ferry to be double-ended so that it doesn’t have to turn around in the harbor, a noisy process that they say disturbs marine life and other harbor activity. Town waterway regulations mandate that any new ferries over 150 feet in length must be double-ended, but the Steamship Authority has said they are not subject to the rule.
At the meeting Tuesday, governors discussed a letter from the town which asked them to reconsider a double-ended model.
Town leaders also asked to meet with the board of governors.
“We are putting together a letter to address some of the concerns, and if that is not adequate or they have other questions, then I am willing to meet with them,” SSA general manager Wayne Lamson told the Gazette Wednesday by telephone.
The governors voted last summer to design the vessel with a single wheelhouse, following a cost and design evaluation of both ferry types. The current design does take into account the impacts on the harbor, Mr. Lamson said, and is designed to be highly maneuverable and efficient, with design features that reduce wake wash and water turbidity.
Mr. Lamson said the boat line is aware of the impacts the large vessels have on local harbors and makes efforts to minimize the effects.
“But when it comes to our legislative mandate to provide adequate service, then something like having a double-ender vessel doesn’t work in all cases,” he said.
Mr. Lamson said a double-ender would be costly and could lead to substantial rate increases for the two Islands.
The first cost analysis put the single-ender at $32 million and the double at $52 million. Since that time, the design group has revised their estimate upward to $41 million, about $8 million more than the contract for the Island Home, a double-ended vessel.
“Even building the less expensive vessel is going to require some gradual rate increases over the next five years or so,” Mr. Lamson said.
The next SSA meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23 on Nantucket.