Rise above the noise


Weeks after a petition was initiated seeking to stop early-morning freight ferries from Woods Hole, there are still fewer than 200 people who have signed on; that, despite several newspaper articles highlighting the issue and a public forum in Falmouth to address concerns. We point this out to demonstrate some perspective as the Steamship Authority ponders the idea of listening to those concerns and eliminating its 5:30 am freight run to Martha’s Vineyard.

Let’s make sure this is truly an issue, and not just the rants of a vocal minority intent on payback after losing an agency appeal aimed at blocking the reconstruction of slips at the Woods Hole terminal. The Island is home to 15,000 year-round residents, and, in the summer, that number swells by more than 100,000. Woods Hole, in particular, and Falmouth, in general, benefit greatly from both Island commuters and visitors taking the ferries out of Woods Hole. They help keep the stores and restaurants operating and vibrant. Those are your neighbors, folks.

Woods Hole Road is a state road that extends into the village. So residents who live along it can say they want to limit truck traffic before 6 am, but there’s really no way to police that. There is some irony about purchasing a house next to a busy state road and then complaining about the noise of the traffic that passes by. But the Internet is full of stories about people who move in next to airports and then complain about jet noise.

The Steamship Authority has already attempted to address the neighbors’ concerns, implementing changes that it can control. There’s a sign on Route 28 entering Falmouth that asks truck drivers not to arrive at the terminal prior to 5 am. They’ve spoken to customers about not using jake brakes — those are air compression brakes that can be loud and disruptive — on Woods Hole Road, and perhaps a sign could be erected, as well. They’ve also instituted a no-idling policy in the lines waiting for the ferries to load, Steamship general manager Wayne Lamson, who recently retired, told The Times in a previous interview. Trucks no longer have to back up to get on the ferries, which has quelled the noise of alarms, Mr. Lamson said.

The Steamship Authority is also looking into the possibility of running freight from New Bedford, but past practice indicates that may be too costly a proposition. It also ignores the many Cape Cod businesses that supply goods and services to Martha’s Vineyard. Are we really expecting them to cross the bridges to drive to New Bedford and then travel to the Island? That makes no sense, and will drive up the already high consumer prices on the Vineyard.

Imagine if Bourne, which has to deal with two bridges to and from Cape Cod, decided that trucks wouldn’t be allowed over until after 6 am. After all, all those trucks rumbling over the bridge, using their jake brakes, must be loud for the people living along the Cape Cod Canal and along the two roads that connect the bridges on either side of the Cape. What would that do to the flow of merchandise to Walmart, Stop and Shop, Shaw’s, and other stores in Falmouth? How would it impact other goods and services delivered to Woods Hole businesses? And what is the cause and effect on traffic both in Woods Hole and on the Island by pushing freight boats later and adding the trucks to the already busy streets carrying commuters and students on school buses?

Isn’t it better to have those big rigs, particularly the ones carrying fuel, on the road with less traffic? It’s also beneficial on the Island side, where trucks get a head start on the narrow streets of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah before daytime traffic hits its peak.

We’re all for the Steamship Authority listening to residents of Woods Hole, but let’s not let the noise from a few dictate a schedule change that would be detrimental to the many.

Updated to correct the agency Falmouth residents went before to appeal — Ed.