State highway workers installed tube-shaped lane dividers Tuesday as a short term safety solution for the intersection of State Road and Old County Road in West Tisbury. The lane dividers are designed to force up-Island-bound drivers to slow down and make a more deliberate left turn onto Old County Road.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) rejected requests to erect the lane dividers in a June 24 letter to the West Tisbury board of selectmen. After a highway safety audit, and pleas from West Tisbury elected officials, public safety officials, and Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) planners, DOT reversed its decision.
A three-car accident at that intersection on May 19 is the source of the latest effort to improve safety. According to a DOT study, between January 2005 and May 2010 there were seven crashes reported, including four making a left turn from State Road onto Old County. The intersection crash rate is 0.39 per million vehicles entering the intersection. The state crash rate average is 0.87 and the crash rate average for this area is 0.66.
State officials concede the accident statistics do not measure near misses. The accident rate does not reach the threshold required to be eligible for state Highway Safety Improvement Program funds.
A long-term redesign of the intersection has been under consideration since 2007, when the DOT submitted two proposals to the town that were rejected. In June, the MVC presented three alternative designs to the selectmen, and these are currently under consideration. However, once a final redesign of the intersection is selected, it is estimated that any state funding appropriation for road work on Martha’s Vineyard would place the project three or four years away.