A group of East Chop residents has asked the town of Oak Bluffs to consider making East Chop Drive one-way for much of its length, in an effort to improve safety along one of Martha’s Vineyard’s most popular scenic drives. An informal email survey of East Chop residents shows a majority favor the one-way designation, according to proponents of the idea.
Selectmen have referred the proposal to a newly formed roads committee, which is in the process of getting organized.
The proposal calls for making East Chop Drive one-way from the Munroe Avenue near the East Chop Lighthouse to the East Chop Beach Club, a distance of about six-tenths of a mile. Vehicle traffic would flow from north to south, or from the lighthouse toward the beach club. Designating only that stretch as one-way would avoid intersection with any state roads, which would require a complex permitting process with state authorities.
The one-way proposal came in a letter to selectmen signed by residents Terry Appenzellar, Dolores Goode, and Lyn Herrick, who wrote “on behalf of concerned residents of East Chop.” The group said the proposal could address safety concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists. “The essence of the proposal is to reduce the speed and volume of traffic,” wrote the group.
In its email survey of more than 200 year-round and seasonal East Chop residents, the group asked for responses to three statements:
Yes – I agree that changes are needed and that the proposed one-way plan is a practical and equitable compromise that balances the needs of drivers, walkers and bikers without unduly impacting residents.
No – I do not agree that these changes are needed.
No – I do not agree with the proposed solution.
According to the letter, 59 people responded, with 33 saying yes, and 26 saying no. The group said most of those objecting to the change live on interior side roads, which could be expected to see an increase in traffic if part of East Chop is restricted to one-way traffic. Many included comments with their replies, which were included anonymously in the letter to selectmen. Nearly all of those who included comments with their survey responses were opposed to the idea.
“When the road was closed for a year or so after the storms of ’91, the traffic on the side roads of the Chop – Munroe, Brewster, Green, etc. was insane, and a one-way road would simply re-direct the traffic to these small windy roads. Munroe is a speedway now,” wrote one survey responder.
“There are lots of things to consider in the unintended tone of changing something (no mater how sensible and meritorious) that seems to be designed to cater to the wants of a few, who have always been perceived as the elite summer people,” wrote another.
In a recent conversation with The Martha’s Vineyard Times, Ms. Appenzellar said she does not perceive a split between seasonal and year-round residents, but between people who live on East Chop Drive, and those who live on interior roads.
“There was a divide based on the reality of where the traffic goes now, and where it would have to go,” said Ms. Appenzellar. “I think that’s fair. People are concerned. That’s the thing the town should really look at. We weren’t pretending that we have done complete exhaustive analysis, we tried to put together as good a case as we could.”
A common theme running through many of the comments is a request for lowering the speed limit, and tougher enforcement of speed regulations.
In its letter, the group also asked that the police and highway departments “consider corrective measures such as increased speed limit signs, lowering the speed limit, and speed traps, especially during commuter hours.”
Oak Bluffs police say East Chop Drive is not a problem spot for accidents. They say that over the past decade, there have not been an abnormal number of incidents involving vehicles, cyclists, or pedestrians on the roadway.
In the letter to selectmen, the group wrote, “While we do not have extensive recorded traffic data, we do walk the drive nearly every day, both winter and summer. We have experienced firsthand the need to climb onto the roadside to avoid speeding drivers or make room for vehicles simultaneously passing in both directions.”
Oak Bluffs selectmen have referred the proposal to the roads committee. The roads committee has not yet met to consider the plan. Selectmen voted to restructure the committee at a November 25 meeting. The roads committee consists of the police chief, fire chief, building official, water superintendent, park commissioner, highway superintendent, ambulance director, a planning board member and two selectmen. The committee is charged with making recommendations to selectmen on opening of new roads, change in direction of roads, alteration of existing streets, creation of additional parking areas, and pedestrian walkways, among other things.