The Steamship Authority, in a departure from previous design plans, debuted a one-story, flat-roof terminal building design at the Falmouth Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, October 7.
“We have this concept, though it is something we continue to work on,” Steamship Authority general manager Robert B. Davis said, noting solicited feedback from “a couple of neighbors” over the weekend.
“We’ll be taking that, we’ll be working with the architects, and the idea is to come back with a design of the terminal building and the utility building that is more in fitting with what the community is looking for, but also serves our requirements,” Mr. Davis said. “We do need to make sure we have sufficient items in place for that building.”
The new conceptual design reduces the proposed size of the new terminal building from 6,700 to 5,600 square feet. Though the current design places it on the center of the site, Mr. Davis said, the intent is to place it as far north as possible.
The proposed building has a flat roof with canopy over the bus pick-up and drop-off area. Solar panels will be placed atop the roof. Mechanical equipment will be located inside the terminal building, rather than on the roof.
“We feel we can generate 52 percent of the energy use of that building,” Mr. Davis said.
The building will have an elevation of 13 feet and be accessible via ramp and stairs. It will contain a waiting room, a ticket office, a cash room, a vending area, an employee break room, restrooms, an agent office and a terminal manager’s office.
It will be supported by a second building on the site, a utility building. Though previously part of the plan, the utility building needs to be expanded to accommodate a smaller terminal building. The proposed concept shows it increased in size from a proposed 4,700 to 7,200 square feet. The expansion turns the previously uninhabitable utility building into a habitable building.
“We have to duplicate a lot of things,” Mr. Davis said, noting both buildings have restrooms and a mechanical room.
The two-story utility building would also house oil, equipment and consumable storage rooms, trash and recycling, an employee locker room, a telecom room, break room, and multi-purpose room for employee training.
He said this redesign is the latest in a series of conceptual designs dating back to 2017. Selectman Douglas H. Jones said while there will still be some concerns with the new conceptual design, it is a dramatic change from prior incarnations of the project.
“So many of the other plans were just incremental changes, and this is such a dramatic change,” Mr. Jones said. “I do appreciate that you’ve come forward with something that makes an effort to listen to what the community has been saying.”
That sentiment was echoed by other selectmen. Douglas C. Brown said the the Steamship Authority “really came out of the box with this one,” while Susan L. Moran described the redesign as “starting fresh.”
“We have been listening,” Mr. Davis said. “We want to get it to the point where it works for us while giving the community what it is looking for.”
He said the redesign is in the conceptual stages and will require additional work. It will need to get approval from the appeals board for its base elevation and from the conservation commission for the expanded utility building, as well as input from the historical commission.
It also requires approval from the Steamship Authority Board of Governors. The new plan would cost approximately $3 million more than prior designs, with a portion of that increase driven by making the utility building habitable.
“It seems like you are getting a good value, $3 million in that amount of space,” Mr. Brown said.
Mr. Davis also discussed traffic issues at the Steamship Authority terminal, including trucks utilizing Railroad Avenue to turn and blocking traffic on Luscombe Avenue.
“I was shocked the first time I went down there,” he said. “There was a car coming down Luscombe, and the vessel crew member actually went to stop that vehicle to allow ours to go. They had the right-of-way, and we have to abide by that, let them travel. Our traffic has to be stopped, and can proceed when it is safe to do so.”
The Steamship Authority has made improvements to its lot to curb that behavior. It has relocated the pick-up and drop-off, and added crosswalks, stop signs and stop lines.
Mr. Davis said increased turning radius enables trucks to turn on-site without utilizing Railroad Avenue, but acknowledged some drivers “may end up swinging that way.”
Mr. Jones said this should not happen. “Any time is unacceptable,” he said. “One time is unacceptable, and now you’re saying it could be 90 percent of the time it’s happening, as opposed to 95 percent. I was there having dinner last week, and saw it happen again. It is completely unacceptable.”
Mr. Davis said the Steamship Authority has issued directives to the truck drivers.
“The routine shippers have been made aware of the requirements, to stay on our property when they are doing this,” he said.
Chairman Megan E. English Braga asked if the Steamship Authority has a dedicated staff member to monitor the situation.
“It seems it would be helpful to have designated personnel for that,” Ms. English Braga said.
Mr. Davis said vessel crew members monitor the area, but the Steamship Authority does not have a dedicated staff member overseeing traffic and truck drivers. Ms. English Braga said they should consider hiring someone.
“This project is worth lots and lots and lots of money, and one or two positions is a drop in the bucket in terms of cost, but it will mean a lot to the community,” she said.
Mr. Brown said hiring staff would reinforce the message to truck drivers.
“They are all going to kind of assume it is okay to do this, that is just the way it is,” he said. “You’ll have to retrain the drivers who did it wrong all summer.”
Mr. Davis would not commit to hiring staff but said, “we’re willing to look at this.”
Mr. Jones was not optimistic.
“The fact that you’re saying you’re going to keep these trucks off the road is a minor issue, but again, I have no faith it is going to happen,” he said.