Oak Bluffs roundabout design subject of MassDOT public hearing

Although it’s been four years since the Oak Bluffs selectmen approved a roundabout at the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and Barnes Road, next week the project moves a step closer to fruition.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Highway Division will hold a design public hearing at 5 pm on Wednesday, April 20, at the Oak Bluffs Library Meeting Room.

Plans at the 25-percent design stage will be displayed and discussed at the hearing. A secure right-of-way necessary for the project and permanent or temporary easements that may be required also will be discussed. Comments received at the hearing will be considered in determining the final design.

The proposed project involves the construction of a single lane roundabout at the notorious “blinker light” intersection, with pavement reconstruction, sidewalks, drainage, landscaping, and other improvements. Details are available online at www.massdot.state.ma.us/Highway.

The preliminary construction cost estimate is approximately $1 million, based on 2010 MassDOT unit prices for District 5, which includes Martha’s Vineyard. Project funding is planned through the 2012 Transportation Improvement Program for the MVC. Construction would begin in late 2011.

The purpose of the roundabout is to improve safety and vehicle flow through the intersection. The project will provide four-foot shoulders to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. A 5-foot wide sidewalk will be constructed on the north side of the intersection and a 10-foot wide shared-use path maintained along the south side.

The single-lane roundabout will have a total diameter of approximately 105 feet, including a 40-foot diameter raised center island with a 12-foot mountable apron to accommodate larger vehicles such as trucks and buses. The circulating lane will be 17 feet wide.

Raised “splitter” islands constructed at each of the four approaches into the roundabout will deflect entering traffic and help protect pedestrians and bicyclists.

As MassDOT’s project description notes, the intersection is ranked the second highest among locations for traffic accidents on the Island, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). The notorious “blinker light” intersection currently utilizes a four-way stop-sign system and flashing red lights on all approaches.

The intersection originally had a two-way stop system with stop signs on Airport Road and Barnes Road. After several severe accidents, additional stop signs were added at the intersection on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

In May 2006 the MVC prepared an analysis of possible improvements to the intersection for the town of Oak Bluffs. Four options included the addition of a right turn lane, a traffic signal, a traffic signal with turning lanes, and a roundabout.

The report determined that a roundabout would provide the safest option for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, offer the highest level of service, ensure the best air quality and most attractive landscaping, and impact abutters the least. It ranked second highest in cost, behind a traffic signal with turning lanes.

The Oak Bluffs selectmen held three public meetings over the summer of 2006, at which residents and abutters expressed their viewpoints. Public safety officials who weighed in said they favored going forward with a roundabout. The selectmen voted 3-1 on September 28, 2006, to begin the process to build one.

At that time construction was planned to start in 2008. However, other projects took precedence since then, such as the improvements in pedestrian ways along Lake Avenue from the Steamship Authority terminal down to the harbor.

The MVC’s joint transportation committee, including representatives from each Island town, as well as others with a stake in road improvements, sets priorities for Island highway safety projects. Last July, the joint transportation committee voted to shift road project priorities.

Planning for the roundabout was pushed back, and improvements in the State Road corridor, including redesign of the roadway and construction of bicycle and pedestrian paths, were moved to the top of the list.