Utility poles provide an obstacle course along Beach Street
Vehicle drivers newly arrived on the Vineyard likely feel a sense or relief once they have navigated the Five Corners intersection. But if they turn right at the infamous intersection, there is little time to pause before they encounter another of the Island's unique road obstacles, the utility pole slalom.
Along the west-bound side of Beach Street three utility poles protrude into the right-hand lane. Periodically, shards of glass and other debris littering the street around the poles indicate that another vehicle side-view mirror has met an untimely end.
"It's very common for people to nick the poles, especially if they're coming out of Cromwell [Lane]-it's just a very tight turn," said Tisbury Police Chief John Cashin. "People driving up the road have misjudged the distance between their car and the pole."
For the most part, any judging of distance is a feat of dead reckoning. Although State Road becomes Beach Street and widens enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic heading west there is no lane line, only a double yellow line that divides the east and west flowing roadways.
The first official indication of two lanes is a white lane line that begins just past the last utility pole by the corner of the Mansion House. A white right arrow and the word "only," recently repainted, indicate that vehicles in that lane must turn onto Main Street.
The last pole is the only one marked with reflectors. An indication perhaps that it is a particular road hazard.
Just as objects looked at in a car mirror may appear closer than they are, the poles may appear to leave little room for comfort. But an unofficial measurement conducted by a Times reporter showed that the distance from the yellow dividing line to the curb by the corner of the Mansion House is 223 inches. The marked pole reduces that distance to 216 inches.
Photo by Steve Myrick
Still, that is plenty of space to accommodate two Hummers side by side at 85.6 inches each in width, including mirrors. However it is not a good idea to try and get by the pole when next to a Stop and Shop freight truck at 105 inches with mirrors.
Henry Stephenson, a member of the Tisbury Planning Board, agreed that the poles are a hazard. "I think a lot of side-view mirrors have been lost there," he said.
NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand said that the electric lines have been there for 60 years, but the road has not. When the road was widened several years ago, the poles could not be moved any farther to the side of the road without being relocated on private property, he said.
Tisbury Department of Public Works Director Fred LaPiana said utility companies would have to negotiate with private property owners to relocate the poles onto private property, which would be more costly.
Mr. LaPiana said that he had talked to NSTAR officials earlier this year about relocating the power lines after the poles were involved in a car accident last year. "We're pressing them to put the wires underground," he said. "And we're trying to figure out a way to make that happen without costing us anything." He added that there is ample space across the street where NSTAR could bury the lines.
Mr. Durand said that burying lines costs towns an average of a million dollars per mile. He said that NSTAR is looking into working with the town to find a suitable spot to relocate the poles.