To the Editor:
As I watch the many hearings to discuss how we can make Stop & Shop solve all our traffic problems, I can’t help but ask, what is the cause of our traffic in Vineyard Haven, and what is the solution? The answer is the Steamship Authority — the elephant in the neighborhood.
Asking Stop & Shop, a major employer, an anchor business, and a competitive provider of essential food, to solve or fund all our problems is not fair. Let’s get a few bucks from them for our approval of a more appropriate structure that is located right on the door mat of Vineyard Haven and then move on to dealing with the elephant.
The solution to most of our traffic problems is to move the Steamship dock out of downtown Vineyard Haven.
A 100 years ago we needed freight to be delivered to the town. This is no longer the case. All we need now in Vineyard Haven is a passenger service to get us on and off the island, deliver our workers and bring the pilgrims (visitors) with their cash that provide Vineyard jobs. Moving the point of entry for cars and freight out of downtown relieves much of the traffic troubles and solves a few other problems.
Converting the Steamship property into parking provides much-needed parking in the downtown area. The existing docks could be converted to accept high speed passenger boats from Woods Hole, Falmouth, Hyannis, New Bedford, and bring more cash, I mean visitors, to Vineyard Haven. The existing Steamship office could be converted to provide community bathrooms and a small passenger ticket office. Creating an additional 150+/- parking spaces that would allow us to change some downtown traffic patterns that will further improve the traffic flow. With the addition of the large parking lot, Main Street could revert to parallel parking and two-way traffic that would improve the flow of traffic in and out of the downtown area. Changing Union Street to two-way traffic will allow a second outlet out of the Water Street area.
So what do we do with the elephant? Ask the Steamship authority to build new docks, parking lot, ticket office and bus stop in the shallow water just east of the R.M. Packer Company on Beach Road, opposite the boat ramp. Relocating the freight boats to this location removes a large volume of vehicle traffic from the Five Corners. The boat traffic that drives toward Five Corners will flow more easily through the intersection. Separating the freight and passenger traffic allows the Steamship to invest in less expensive and more focused boats. Passengers arriving on the new vehicle dock can be shuttled to Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven.
I’m sure there are many reasons why these suggestions won’t work, but we have to start proposing solutions that will stimulate discussion on long-term solutions to the traffic problems that frustrate most of us.