Oak Bluffs Terminal Redesign Reflows Traffic, Rebuilds Pier


Two years after the Steamship Authority board of governors first approved a design plan to refurbish the Oak Bluffs ferry terminal, a revised version of the plan is set to come before the town conservation commission for permitting next week.

The $10 million project includes redesigning traffic flow around the terminal to relieve congestion and rebuilding the wooden pier to allow for better mixed use by cars, bikes, passengers and trucks.

The Oak Bluffs conservation commission is the only municipal board that will formally review the project. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 12, at 5 p.m.

"We have asked all of the town boards to come to the meeting and we are hoping for a lot of public participation," said conservation commission chairman Joan Hughes. "This would be a major change, and even if it is a pleasant major change, it warrants a closer look."

SSA spokesman Paula Peters said the boat line wants to begin construction in October, with the entire project completed by spring 2006.

The Oak Bluffs terminal, which fronts Nantucket Sound, operates seasonally from late spring through early fall, and the first phase of the project would include seaside construction.

The reconstruction plan for the Oak Bluffs terminal was first unveiled nearly four years ago with a price tag of $15 million. The Martha's Vineyard Commission critiqued the plan but did not formally consider the project as a development of regional impact because the SSA is exempt from any formal MVC review.

In 2002 a scaled-back and less expensive design was approved by the SSA board of governors and the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen.

The Oak Bluffs conservation commission now must permit the project because of its siting in a coastal resource area.

The plan under consideration by the conservation commission has been further revised from 2002 but still includes some of the same concepts as the original plan, among them developing a new vehicle staging area and making substantial changes to the ferry pier.

Elements of the original plan that have been scrapped were a plan to reposition the end of the ferry slip to make the exposed pier more usable during inclement weather and a plan to build a new ticket office on the site of the existing one.

The boat line is now negotiating with the town of Oak Bluffs to lease the former town hall for use as a ticket office.

If the plan goes through, the existing office would be replaced by a small pavilion area and automated ticket kiosk.

The redesign calls for extensive paving on Sea View avenue extension, north of the current ticket office extending to just past Pasque avenue. The restrooms would be demolished, a new traffic island would be installed and two staging lanes with room for 22 cars would be established.

The area south of the ticket office, stretching to Lake avenue, would be designated as a passenger pick-up and drop-off area. A new traffic island would be installed to separate the area from the through-traffic lane.

The plan also calls for changes to the ferry pier that include lengthening the vehicle transfer bridge from 30 feet to 50 feet to decrease the steep angle of approach to better accommodate longer trucks. The addition of a trapezoid-shaped piece on the southern side of the pier would serve as a truck turnaround area.

The new pier would include room for a bike lane, two car lanes and an exit lane. The plan also calls for replacing the deteriorated dolphins and constructing a new passenger walkway on the south side of the pier.

A spokesman from the Maguire Group, the engineering firm that designed the plans, will attend the meeting.