West Tisbury unveils Old County-State Road intersection plan

A ground level view of the Old County-State Road intersection looking north on State (Vineyard Haven) Road shows the dividers put in place to increase safety. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand unveiled the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (DOT) 25 percent design plan for a redesigned Old County-State Road intersection at the selectmen’s meeting on Wednesday, September 4. The project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

The plan is a fleshed-out version of a conceptual design presented to the selectmen in January of a T-shaped intersection. The stop sign on Old County Road and green space remain, but it makes turning on to or off of Old County Road more deliberate.

The plans call for the geometry of the intersection to be changed to open up sight lines for drivers traveling north on State Road. The T-shaped intersection would force south-bound motorists to slow or stop before turning left onto Old County Road.

The state requires a public hearing on road projects at the “25 percent” design stage. The hearing has not yet been scheduled. The plans are available at the town hall.

The project is budgeted for $324,547, paid for by a combination of state and federal money, selectman chairman Richard Knabel said. He said selectmen have sought ways to decrease the number of accidents at this intersection for at least 10 years. The intersection has been the site of several serious accidents, and there is a view among town leaders and traffic planners that the crossing is dangerous and poorly designed.

The DOT in the past presented several plans, one that included an island and a designated turning lane on State Road for south-bound cars turning left onto Old County Road. Selectmen rejected that one.

“It had a suburban look that was not in keeping with Vineyard sensibilities,” Mr. Knabel said in a conversation with the Times.

Selectmen said that those earlier preliminary plans would increase the amount of asphalt, eliminate the small triangle where the Christmas tree is displayed annually, and encourage motorists to speed up. Ms. Rand said these issues have all been addressed in the current plan.

Attempts to increase the margin of safety at the intersection have included installing thin yellow pylons to prevent motor vehicles from cutting across oncoming traffic on State Road and reflective delineators placed in divots dug out along the edges of the intersection. The pylons, a tempting target for drivers, have been removed and replaced several times. Mr. Knabel said he is not sure if they had been removed by hand or taken out by vehicles. The divots were filled in when selectmen told the DOT that they were a hazard to cyclists and would fill with ice in the winter.