Standing up for the Roundabout
To the Editor:
There comes a time when one cannot be silent anymore. This is it.
As many people on the Island, I would like to live in a place with clean air, clean water, a flourishing natural environment, the opportunity for a safe and healthy existence, and amiable neighbors who have a respect for each other and for the heritage of the place. As a proud citizen of the United States and the town of Oak Bluffs, I believe these are my basic rights. So, when these rights are threatened for myself and others, I must speak up. I am standing up for the Roundabout.
Heritage of the place, near the Blinker. Note the Land Bank trail sign off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road (Edg.-VH Rd.) just to the northwest of the Blinker. Or you can go to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Commission website and view the Weahtaqua Springs Preserve, a Wampanoag name for land at the head of the Lagoon Pond. One can easily see the Cross Oak Bluffs Trail and the Old Holmes Hole Road ancient ways, which are now Land Bank trails. Historically there was no four-way stop, and a Barnes Road/Edg.-VH Rd. intersection did not exist. There was no such thing as a four-way stop – a product of modern transportation signage. A monument or circle of grass (a.k.a. Roundabout) had historically been the way horses, bicycles, and cars during the Industrial Revolution slowed down but kept moving at intersections in dense parts of town. As it states on the Land Bank website, this property of springs and Stepping Stone Brook was purchased primarily for drinking water protection and is squarely in the draw down zone for the Oak Bluffs town well at the Upper Lagoon Pond.
Clean water and clean air. The Oak Bluffs Water District well and historic pump house are located at the head of the Lagoon. This is part of our drinking water and fire hydrant system. We drink this water. Long lines of cars and trucks up to 20 or more (at the height of the season) who stop, and stop and go, at the four-way stop cause an increase of polluted particulate matter from vehicular exhaust on the roadway adjacent to the Weahtaqua Spring Preserve. The summer season is the peak time for water usage in our town and the peak time for traffic back up west of the Blinker. Massachusetts General Law prohibits, wherever possible, idling of vehicles in excess of five minutes because of pollution.
Through going diesel trucks and those exiting from the commercial sand pit stop and go here also. So at one point in time, say 50 cars and trucks times 10-15 minutes idling at this intersection equals, what. Of note, on May 16, West Tisbury energy committee members discussed at their selectmen's meeting what they need to do to become a "Green Town," including a mandate of low emission town vehicles wherever possible.
A flourishing natural environment. Take a walk in the Wehataqua Spring Preserve. Come visit the head of the Lagoon fresh water pond and enjoy the serenity. Observe the clarity of the water above and below the herring run and compare clarity now to that in August. The two shellfish hatcheries on the Lagoon require clean water to produce the scallop spat which is distributed to all the Island towns for propagation. Island-wide families depend on this shellfish to eat, and fishermen depend on it for their livelihood. Granted, there are many factors which contribute to the cleanliness of a coastal pond. Tisbury and Oak Bluffs are studying what can be done to save the Lagoon pond from peril. The least we can do is to keep traffic moving at Barnes Rd./Edg-VH Rd all year long. We need everyone to pitch in.
Multimodal transportation hub. This may be a four-way car stop but eight cars can, and do line up, at the gate. I avoid this intersection most times because I cannot predict who will go when. Islanders from other towns may come through the intersection at other than rush hour and sure, it looks pretty easy then. Islanders and visitors don't necessarily remember rules of the road for four-way stops with eight cars facing each other. I have witnessed cars drafting directly behind others like they were attached bumper to bumper. A serious accident is waiting to happen. Our new teenage drivers going to and from the regional high school have to negotiate this mayhem. So do pedestrians and bicyclists. Bus riders also transfer to other buses here. At this time there is no even ground or surface for a physically handicapped person to get out onto. It is an inhospitable place to negotiate on foot. It is interesting to note that Edgartown paved the bus stops for easier access on the Edg.-VH Rd. this past year.
Oak Bluffs recently agreed with the Martha's Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee to put Vineyard Haven ahead of the Oak Bluffs roundabout on the state Transportation Improvement Project (TIP) list after a bicyclist was so tragically killed on State Road. This was a safety problem and now there are beautiful, flat sidewalks that have universal access. Seems to me, that Oak Bluffs has also been quite magnanimous in hosting most of the large non-profit regional institutions of the Island, and the associated traffic burden that goes along with them. Is it too much to ask that we replace the well documented temporary four-way stop solution and pollution with the best-evidenced long term solution?
Yes, I am for clean air, clean water, shellfish propagation, universal access to public transportation, and a safer intersection for all modes of travel. I am for the Roundabout in Oak Bluffs. I ask that you please stop trying to bully us and state entities – pushing to stop a project that is for the greater good of the citizens and visitors of Oak Bluffs.
Nancy Phillips is an Oak Bluffs park commissioner and a member of the town's Seaview Watefront Project Committee.