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Hingham officials laud aid for ferry, terminal

The state’s revised plan for a $6.2 million ferry and bus terminal at the Hingham Shipyard came as news to most town officials, but no one’s complaining about being left out of the loop.

“This is a bit of a surprise, a happy surprise that they are back on track with their project,” said Town Administrator Ted Alexiades.

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Although officials of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority have said residents have been part of the project’s development since 2009, most town officials said the state’s July 29 announcement that it was soliciting bids was unexpected.

“We spent a bit of time on this four to five years ago, and hadn’t heard anything about it for a number of years, and it just popped up,” Alexiades said.

Regardless of the procedure, the project has been a long time coming and will continue the shipyard’s transformation from an industrial site to a destination, Alexiades said.

‘Any expansion of alternative modes of transportation outside of the vehicle is a good thing. The whole setupof the shipyard reinforces the opportunity for alternative modes.’

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“The intermodal center . . . is going to help link that area of town to the water uses of that surrounding region,” he said. “That’s the jumping off point for Boston Harbor Islands, [for] all the communities that come to that center — Quincy, Weymouth, Hull.”

Plans call for a two-story, 8,400-square-foot intermodal transportation center to the west of the existing ferry ticket office, known as Building 45.

“The intermodal will act as a significant public transportation node/landmark connecting two modes of transportation: MBTA route 220 bus (Quincy Station/Hingham Depot) and MBTA F1 Commuter Boat (Hingham Harbor/Rowes Wharf Boston),” Kelly Smith, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said in an e-mail.

The new building will also house offices of the MBTA, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, Boston Harbor Island Cruises, the Hingham harbor master, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police.

The 2009 plan would have demolished Building 45, which is owned by the DCR, but that approach proved too expensive and cumbersome for the state.

Since then, transportation officials said, the footprint of the new building has been reduced, the space allocated to future tenants minimized, some materials substituted for, and the landscape modified.

A lease has been worked out with the DCR for land for the building, which contributed to the delay. The MBTA will own and operate the new building, and the DRC will use the existing building for storage.

The revised plan also met with approval from Leslie Cohen, vice president of Samuels & Associates, which owns the Hingham Shipyard.

“Any expansion of alternative modes of transportation outside of the vehicle is a good thing,” she said. “The whole setup of the shipyard reinforces the opportunity for alternative modes.”

Cohen admitted that there hadn’t been a lot of direct communication while the project appeared dormant, but said that she was excited to hear the MBTA had revived the plan.

Selectman Bruce Rabuffo, who also was surprised to hear the project was back on track, saw the investment as a commitment to the ferry.

“It seems to send a signal to us that the ferry will be there for a while, and that’s a good thing,” Rabuffo said.

Yet his excitement was tempered by skepticism. Rabuffo questioned the timing of the venture in relation to the recently raised gasoline tax, wondering where the funding would come from.

MBTA officials said the money will come from two federal grants totaling $8 million, but didn’t elaborate.

Rabuffo also referred to the MBTA’s predictions about the Greenbush commuter line, which was supposed to take a large number of cars off the road.

The same “if you build it, they will come” mentality may be just as misguided in this instance, Rabuffo suggested.

“What’s happening to ridership that makes [the intermodal center] a good idea?” he asked.

Yet state Representative Garrett Bradley, a Hingham Democrat, said the resurrection of the $6.2 million project is well worth the money.

This area “10 years ago was vacant with no businesses, no economy whatsoever, and structures that were decrepit,’’ he said. “Now you have a vibrant community, a commuter boat going in and out of Boston . . . and now you’ll have a new facility there that’s a linchpin for businesses. I think it’s a great use of taxpayer dollars.”

The security and safety factors were also significant, Bradley said. The project will bring with it increased lighting, removal of pedestrian obstacles, and more user-friendly access to the waterfront.

“The intermodal center is a critical piece in the development of the shipyard,” he said.

Perhaps no one is as eager for the development as Hingham’s harbor master, Ken Corson, who said he was kept well informed as the project progressed.

“We’re very excited. The planning has been going on for a number of years now, five to six years we’ve been looking forward to this actually happening,” Corson said.

The project will move the Hingham harbor master offices from Town Hall to the waterfront, placing it near the harbor master’s boats, a large number of moorings, and the commuter boat docks.

MassDOT hopes to award the contract by the end of the year, and construction is expected to take about 18 months. The center could be in operation by mid-2015.

“It is definitely something we’ve needed for some time,” Corson said.

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@ gmail.com.

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