To the Editor:
Having often heard or read how other people react to things I have said or written, it is sometimes amusing to realize how selective those interpretations can be. So it was when I read Nis Kildegaard’s column (December 1, Cross-town referral) in last week’s Times, which was a paean to roundabouts around the world.
For the record once again, here are my objections to the proposed roundabout at the Blinker intersection in my own words, in priority order:
1. Because of the asymmetric traffic flow through the blinker intersection, i.e., much heavier between Vineyard Haven and Edgartown then on Barnes and Airport Roads, during peak traffic times a roundabout effectively restores the two-way stop situation that existed prior to 2003. Vehicles on the roundabout have the right-of-way, those trying to get into the roundabout from Barnes and Airport Roads will have to stop and wait for an opening in the traffic flow. The opportunity, and in my mind the eventuality, for higher speed collisions is very real. Those entering from the two side roads, including many up-Islanders, are greatly disadvantaged, unlike now with the four-way stop.
2. The roundabout is an overkill and expensive solution to a non-existent problem for most of the year, if not the whole year. Even Dan Greenbaum, a retired traffic consultant living in Chilmark and who serves on the MVC’s Joint Transportation Committee, says as much. Even though he has supported the roundabout as a member of that committee, he now says it doesn’t have to be built now, or possibly ever. The delays are not intolerable, even in the summer, he says.
3. Thousands of residents have clearly said they don’t want a roundabout. Why doesn’t that matter? Mr. Greenbaum, the MVC, the DOT and Mr. Kildegaard either don’t acknowledge that such widespread, grassroots opposition exists, or in the latter’s case, he dismiss it as being a case of mass delusion. Or to be more accurate he says, “…much of the opposition to (the roundabout) has been at odds with…the reality-based community.” So who should prevail? The many residents who have indicated what they don’t want very clearly, or the planners and builders? Saying, “trust us, don’t worry, you’ll like it,” drips with arrogance and condescension. No wonder people are angry.
4. The less expensive, less invasive, less ungainly, less environmentally destructive alternative, if we need one at all, is a simple, seasonal, programmable traffic signal such as exists just about everywhere. Yes, Mr. Kildegaard, there are many roundabouts in this country and in the world. However, there are hundreds of thousands of traffic lights, if not more, that do a good job everyday everywhere. Moreover, to those who say a traffic light on Martha’s Vineyard is “un-Island-like,” I say how is a roundabout Island-like? We don’t have any roundabouts, we don’t want this one, but there is a traffic signal already at the intersection, and there has been for decades. So which is more “un-Island-like?”
Yes, I have said that the MVC approved an incomplete plan presented by the DOT. And I say it again. We will not know what the unwanted roundabout will actually look like unless and until it is built. Ask those familiar with the rebuilding by the DOT of the end of Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Ask if what was on paper, 25 percent, 75 percent, or 95 percent plans, actually got built or if there were unexpected and unwanted surprises.
And we won’t know the actual cost of the roundabout in advance, or possibly ever. So far the estimated cost has gone up by about a factor of five, from $300,000 to $1.4-million. If the state and federal funding is considered free money, as it is by many of the proponents, then of course it doesn’t matter even if the cost is $5 million. Let’s face reality: If the cost of the roundabout had to be paid for entirely by Oak Bluffs, or even if every town on the Island had to agree to pay a portion of the cost, would we be having this discussion?
It’s not a big stretch to see there are more cost-efficient ways to address our Blinker intersection issues. The most cost-effective one, of course, is to do nothing. And maybe that’s the answer for now.
Richard Knabel is a West Tisbury selectman.