The Steamship Authority’s sweeping renovation of its Woods Hole operations, originally estimated to cost less than $70 million, is now being budgeted at nearly $93 million, boat line officials said this week. More than $57 million of the $92,767,283 committed to date is earmarked for the waterside reconstruction, a massive multi-year project that began in early 2018 with the demolition of the 1950s building housing the Woods Hole ticket and administration offices.

Designing and building a dedicated administration building in Falmouth, which opened in early 2018, cost the boat line another $15,795,879 that was not on the original estimate of costs for the Woods Hole project.

The terminal reconstruction will also take longer than originally expected.

“The best-case scenario here is looking at May of 2025,” general manager Robert Davis said at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the SSA board of governors in Falmouth.

The waterside work includes relocating and rebuilding three ferry slips, along with the transfer bridges and passenger loading areas for each, and building a permanent terminal building on the current site of the temporary ticket office.

Mr. Davis said more costs may be revealed when waterside construction moves to the southernmost slip. Change orders, many caused by unforeseen obstructions beneath the soil underwater, have already mounted past $2.5 million for work on the other two slips.

Construction can only take place between October and May. — Jeanna Shepard

Other future costs are expected to come from the design and construction of an anti-scour pad, to prevent ferry engines from displacing underwater sand and soil; bulkhead repairs; construction administration services and completing the permanent ticket building.

The temporary Woods Hole ticket office, installed in late 2017, cost about $3 million. Costs for its permanent replacement, which is still being designed, currently are earmarked at $15,888,749. The current structure has a temporary building permit, but because it does not meet all the environmental and zoning requirements for the site, this permit cannot be extended unless a permanent building is under construction.

In addition to delays caused by underwater obstructions, there was a bulkhead collapse due to soil liquefaction and a protracted community approval process for the permanent ticket building. Another reason for the distant time horizon for the project’s completion is that the terminal reconstruction work takes place only between October and May, with contractor Jay Cashman, Inc. of Quincy removing its equipment from Woods Hole before the summer travel rush.

More information about the terminal reconstruction project is posted on the Steamship Authority website at The boat line is funding the project chiefly through the periodic sale of bonds.

As part of his update to the SSA board, Mr. Davis disclosed the main culprit in the Jan. 21 crash of the boat line website, which took place on opening day of online auto reservations for the summer.

“The mobile service for the system was not load tested when we were pre-testing the systems,” he said. With a high volume of customers using mobile devices to connect, the SSA website was unable to meet the demand.

Mr. Davis said that future load testing will include every element of the reservations process and involve the boat line’s vendors for its website, mobile interface, the reservations system and credit card payment system.

He also aired the possibility of creating a “virtual waiting room” for online customers, and said the boat line is looking to identify vendors for a mobile application and upgraded website.

Despite being crippled for half the day, the website nonetheless handled nearly 15,000 reservations on Jan. 21, Mr. Davis said.

In other business, treasurer/comptroller Mark Rozum reported the proceeds from last year’s embarkation fees. By law, the SSA adds a 50-cent embarkation surcharge to each individual passenger ticket. The total at the end of the year is divided among the port towns.

In 2019, the Steamship Authority collected just under $1,068,000 in embarkation fees, about $16,000 more than in 2018, Mr. Rozum said.

Falmouth will receive the largest share of the distribution, $411,000.

Tisbury is due $262,000, Oak Bluffs $145,000, Barnstable $126,000 and Nantucket $124,000, Mr. Rozum said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, held jointly with the boat line’s advisory port council, Steamship Authority board members also received a report on vessel dry docking and repairs from Mark Amundsen, the boat line’s director of marine operations, and an update on marine construction in Woods Hole from project manager Bill Cloutier.

The latest, single-story design for the controversial terminal building has passed muster with the Falmouth Conservation Commission and the Falmouth Historical Commission, Mr. Davis told board members.

After last month’s meeting, at which New Bedford board member Moira Tierney objected to an $880,000 change order from the architects, Mr. Davis said the boat line is seeking an independent review of the charges to make sure they are reasonable.

Ms. Tierney was absent from Tuesday’s meeting due to the recent death of her mother, former New Bedford mayor Rosemary Tierney.

As the meeting concluded, the board and boat line staff saluted outgoing Martha’s Vineyard governor Marc Hanover, who is stepping down after serving five three-year terms beginning in 2004, and executive secretary Pat Avery, who also is retiring from the Steamship Authority.

Mr. Hanover’s replacement is expected to be selected early next month by the Dukes County Commission, which has interviewed 10 applicants for the post. By law, this is the Vineyard’s year to chair the Steamship Authority board, so the newcomer will wield the gavel at the March 17 meeting in Falmouth.