Roundabout is a wasteful, wrong choice


To the Editor:

A new roundabout for the intersection of Barnes Road and Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road was discussed in a public hearing before the MVC (Martha’s Vineyard Commission) Thursday night. The MVC is reviewing this project to determine if this could be a DRI (Development of Regional Impact). I understand thoroughly why the MVC chairman tried to limit public comment to input germane to the determination before the commission. It has been nearly impossible to voice an opinion in any of the public hearings in the past; so when a project supposedly put before the public for comment, advances to the permitting stage, it becomes painfully clear that what you think doesn’t really matter.

This is a state road, the state is going to run the job and pay for the job, and so the state will do pretty much what they want; obvious when the Department of Transportation (DOT) has effectively ruled out a cycling traffic light system simply by creating a set of standards within their “warrant system” eliminating traffic lights as an alternative. So, folks, we’ve had public hearings and occasionally public opinion has leaked into our carefully controlled topics allowed on the floor, and you heard it last week, it’s the roundabout or we (the state) might take our money and go home.

In these times when our town, state, and federal governments are scrambling to maintain budgets and fund salaries, I’m not in a hurry to endorse spending our state money on such an expensive and obviously dysfunctional project. The worst of it is that after this monster is bought and installed and doesn’t alleviate any of the traffic congestion they’re promising, the state will back out with a “..well, we tried..sorry, money’s all gone..” approach. Remember, these are the same masterminds that brought you the “temporary bridge.” How’s that going?

The amount of traffic we see in the heavy summer months is a given. There’s nothing we can do about the numbers of cars that flood our Island in the summer. It’s only going to increase, and congestion will only get worse if change isn’t made. The circle is the state’s answer to improve traffic flow through this busy intersection.

What’s wrong with a circle here? The plan proposes that traffic from four directions push into a one-lane circle. That’s four lanes of traffic into one lane. You don’t need to be an engineer to realize this will be a bottleneck. Can anybody but an engineer see this? Ask a plumber if you can efficiently push water from a four-inch pipe through a one-inch pipe. Ask an electrician if you can feed a primary with a lamp cord. Ask a firefighter if they can get the volume of water in a four-inch hose to the fire through a one-inch booster hose?

A cycling traffic light system would allow two directions of one road to flow at a time. That’s twice the flow of the proposed circle. Traffic right-of-way and enforcement would be simpler and clearer for drivers and law enforcement resulting in a safer passage through the intersection. Off-peak traffic season the lights could be changed to flashing yellow for VH-Edg. Road and flashing red for Barnes Road at the discretion and with comments from the Oak Bluffs police, the highway department and DPW. Remote control of these traffic lights can be controlled by emergency response vehicles responding to a call allowing quick passage through the intersection without the necessity of police assistance. The predicted cost for this circle has evolved from approximately 400K to a suggested $1 million.

Let’s try to avoid a Vineyard version of the Big Dig. If installing a traffic light at this intersection costs almost the same as someone there suggested, that contractor should be indicted before the first shovel drops.

I understand there are criteria the commissioners must follow to determine a DRI, and I appreciate your patience during my questions at the hearing. Equally, I know every one of you have experienced the same sentiments of frustration dealing with bureaucracies. This project has been stuffed to us, disguised behind a facade of request for public opinion.

This is a dysfunctional, expensive waste of state money that most certainly will not improve the traffic congestion as intended. Wasting state money, building a permanent bottleneck at an already strained intersection that would depend completely on universal driver cooperation, patience, and good judgement is as realistic as thinking if we all sing “Kumbaya” around a campfire we can attain world peace.

Navigate through Five Corners in August and let me know if driver cooperation and courtesy is realistic to expect. At some point, our elected officials and governing boards need to drop the attitude that money from the state and federal government funds are not really our money and evolve into a more discerning and responsible governing body. This is regional impact, in my opinion.

Charles Lehman

Oak Bluffs