So, the bare bones of the Roundabout exist, and it’s working splendidly. That’s according to everyone whose taken a moment to let me know how their particular trip into the unknown went. Of course, it’s not handsome, indeed it may never be, not even when the landscaping has been done later this spring. And, the traffic isn’t terrific this time of year, but it’s building, so the new merry go around will get a rigorous test one of these days. When it does, the betting here is that it will work pretty well. And, that will be the signal for the no-Roundabout diehards to give their keyboards a breather.
None of this means that the decision making that led to the Roundabout was exemplary. The town of Oak Bluffs failed to recognize that such a change as the Roundabout, at such a location as the Blinker, was certainly a regional matter. The MVC, likewise, botched the whole thing, compounding its early obtuseness by the sloppy way in which it ultimately dealt with its decision making.
Still, there are three key reasons why the grousing should end. One, that the design of the planned Roundabout has been thoroughly hashed out over a decade, among Oak Bluffs, the MVC staff and commissioners, committed and interested members of the public, and experienced and capable engineers and designers. It is a solid design, improved since its first iteration. Two, there is no way to credit the chief argument of opponents who charge that a Roundabout will extinguish Martha’s Vineyard’s unique beauty and “preciousness” — that plaint is wholly unpersuasive. Three, the Roundabout, as planned and improved, is unlikely to make the intersection less safe for motorists and bike path users, and it is likely to improve traffic flow through that intersection, especially in the thick of the high season volumes.
It’s here, and Island motorists and their visitors will have to deal with it. This morning, we publish a Roundabout primer. Times managing editor Nelson Sigelman has scoured the best sources to help Island drivers — acknowledging their on-again, off-again devotion to good motoring manners — meet the new challenge.
Here’s the key concept, from the Franklin [Massachusetts] Regional Council of Governments: “A Roundabout is generally a circular shaped intersection where traffic travels in a counterclockwise direction around a center island. Vehicles entering the circulating roadway must yield to vehicles already circulating. Roundabouts have specific design elements that require vehicles to approach and proceed through the intersection at slow speeds, increasing safety and efficiency. Roundabouts have a proven track record in the U.S., with several studies showing significant traffic operation and safety benefits after Roundabouts were installed.”
And, here’s an especially important highlight, aimed at the heart of the Vineyard’s Roundabout opponents: “Roundabouts are often confused with rotaries and for that reason are viewed unfavorably by many. Although both are circular intersections, roundabouts differ in size (considerably smaller), capacity (increased volume of traffic they can process) and safety (reduced number and severity of crashes),” according to Franklin County.
Happy motoring. Oh, and try to forget which side of the decade-old argument you were on.