The Steamship Authority has purchased the 157-foot diesel-powered motor vessel Auriga for use as a freight carrier. The price was $435,140, “which will be augmented by the cost of modifications for Island service, as well as outfitting and delivery costs.”

According to a statement released by the boatline this week, Auriga will be employed primarily in transporting trucks and freight from Woods Hole to Nantucket during the summer schedule.”

The statement adds that the “vessel will also be used on a standby, turn-key basis to service the off-season, thus eliminating the need for a larger and more costly vessel being placed in service for short periods.”

Carleton H. Parker of West Tisbury and several other Island voters and taxpayers, it was reported, will file suit today against the boatline, charging that the purchase of Auriga was undertaken in violation of the state statute requiring that large Authrouty purchases be put out to bids.

“We are not opposed to Nantucket getting good freight service,” Mr. Parker said, “but we want the boatline to do things right and within the law. We sent them a letter asking if bids had been put out on the freight boat, but we got no answer.”

In other matters related to the boatline, a letter was sent Feb. 15 over the signature of James H. Smith, Falmouth member and secretary of the Authority, to Gov. Francis W. Sargent. The letter replied to a letter sent Feb. 12 by the governor to the boatline asking that the line undertake a complete environmental impact study of its proposed plans for the Tisbury waterfront, as well as an evaluation of all feasible alternatives to its plans before proceeding with any work on the property.

The boatline’s reply cited the current “traffic flow and congestion problem,” facing both the town and the steamship line because of the present limited parking area at the terminal. The letter included a copy of the agreements reached on Feb. 7 between the boatline members and the Tisbury selectmen, and special emphasis was placed on the fact that the boatline and the selectmen had agreed that work on the parking area (where the Crowell Coal Company and the Tilton Lumber Company are now) should proceed.

To Assist the Town

“Form the beginning,” the letter says, “the Authority’s purpose in improving its terminal area has been primarily to assist the town of Tisbury and the Island of Martha’s Vineyard in curing the traffic congestion and flow problems that exist. In addition, we have given primary consideration to the environmental and economic aspects of our proposal.”

The letter adds that the Bethel will be preserved, the beach land opened to the town, and that aesthetic considerations will not be overlooked.

Remarking on the Feb. 14 public meeting with Authority members and selectmen, (attendance referred to in the letter as “sparse”) the letter said that in spite of objections voiced during the evening, “in our judgment, a majority felt that the Authority’s proposal would substantially reduce congestion and parking flow problems at our terminal and on town streets.”

The letter added that “most present also acknowledged that alternative proposals for a new terminal” elsewhere involved long delays and great cost.

The letter added that the boatline members would be happy to meet with the governor’s Secretary of Transportation as had been requested.

The governor’s request for an environmental impact study and a study of all feasible alternatives to the present boatline plan was not precisely responded to in the letter. However, yesterday, Allen M. Look, Vineyard member of the Authority, reached by telephone, said that for his part, the boatline should comply with the governor’s request. He said at the same time that the suit now contemplated by the Concerned Citizens and the Vineyard Conservation Society, if it were successful, might make the study as well as the purchase and improvement of the land unnecessary. (The suit, according to a spokesman for the Concerned Citizens, will be filed in Superior Court shortly.) He added that the availability of the governor’s staff personnel to assist in the study also had a bearing on its completion.

Cleared as Soon as Possible

“For myself,” Mr. Look said, “I would like to see everything cleared away as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for Governor Sargent said yesterday that the state leader’s position on the matter was unchanged. He said that the governor remained concerned about environmental as well as traffic matters.

The Auriga will be delivered to Woods Hole next month. She was purchased from Arthur Levy Boat Service, Inc. of Morgan City, La. Built in 1965, Auriga was designed to transport “heavy machinery, supplies, fuel and freight in ocean service to off-shore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.”

She will have a cargo capacity of five or six 35-ton, 50-foot tractor-trailer trucks or nine trucks of varying lengths. Her open cargo deck stretched for 112 feet of her overall length. Superstructure, quarters for her crew of four (and perhaps a cook), and the pilot house are all forward. She has a beam of 34 feet and a draft of seven.

Four 12-cylinder General Motors diesels provide Auriga with 2,120 horsepower, and a maximum speed of 12 knots.

The Authority’s release explained that the acquisition of the freight boat was in accord with the recommendations in the 1971 Arthur D. Little study, “and also in accord with the Authority’s previously announced, longterm objective of converting its fleet to three large and two small economic diesel ferries.”

The statement explained that the name Auriga is derived from the Greek name for a constellation and, means wagoneer.