Petition circulates against roundabout
Customers who stopped into Hinckley's Hardware store in Vineyard Haven to pick up a gallon of paint or a pair of gardening gloves this week, probably spotted a multi-page petition on the counter as they were checking out.
The nine-page packet, covered with signatures scribbled in blue and black pen, declared in bold writing: "NO ROUND-A-BOUT. We the undersigned residents of Martha's Vineyard do not want a round-a-bout at the blinker."
The petition, delivered to the hardware store Saturday by Edgartown resident Madeline Fisher, had approximately 225 signatures yesterday. Another petition was also placed at Woodland Market. Ms. Fisher said she has plans to present the signatures to the selectmen at their next meeting.
Cars approaching the Blinker intersection, now a four-way stop, back up at busy moments each summer day. Photo by Ralph Stewart
The petition comes on the heels of multiple public hearings and discussions at meetings of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen about future construction at the intersection formerly known as the blinker.
At the board's last meeting on Aug. 22, the selectmen said they would soon make a definitive decision on what to do at the notorious intersection of Vineyard Haven-Edgartown and Barnes Roads. Their next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 12. The five board members are not in agreement about what would be best for the intersection.
Mark London, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC), who presented a lengthy report analyzing the intersection and the various possibilities for improvement to the selectmen, said he became aware of the petition when he went into Hinckley's Tuesday morning to pick up a roll of duct tape. After thorough research into the history of roundabouts and the possibility of one at the blinker, Mr. London said he was shocked to hear employees lamenting that large trucks would not be able to pass through a roundabout at the intersection. He said that is untrue, and that the proposed design would be suitable for trucks of any size that travel on the Island.
Mr. London said that traditionally the public has been against roundabouts in the initial planning stages, especially in the northeast. "We know that in general there's often a lot of public concern about proposals to build roundabouts before they are built," he said. "They confuse them with rotaries and everyone hates rotaries like the ones on the Cape."
Trip Barnes, owner of Barnes Moving and Storage, said building a roundabout would be "the beginning of the end." Mr. Barnes helped Ms. Fisher construct the petition.
"Nine months a year we don't need it," he said, adding that the four-way stop works fine, and a traffic cop placed at the junction during busy hours in the summer is all it would take to ease congestion.
Sandra Lippens, the proprietor of Tilton Rentall which abuts the intersection, said her company signed the petition because the current four-way stop works fine.
"I'm in favor of keeping it the way it is until some really good Island plan is proposed," Ms. Lippens said. "And not just a plan for one intersection."
Ms. Lippens said the four-way stop has proven to be safe for motorists and bicyclists, and the cost of new construction would raise already high taxes in Oak Bluffs. "To my knowledge, there has not been one bodily injury - and those are the important words - since the stop signs have been put in place," she said.
Ms. Lippens said a roundabout would not be safe for bikers due to the two-way bike path, and that it is an "engineering question that has not been answered." The roundabout proposed for the intersection would be a single lane rotating around a landscaped piece of land, where cars travel at approximately 15 miles per hour.
The selectmen scrapped a plan to build a roundabout at the intersection in 2004, after a public outcry citing multiple traffic impacts and bicycle and pedestrian safety.
The selectmen have the final say on what will happen at the intersection. Aside from installing a roundabout, options include keeping the current four-way stop, installing right turn lanes, a traffic light, or a traffic light with right turn lanes.
"I hope the selectmen base their decision on factual information and not gut reaction," Mr. London said.