Oak Bluffs roundabout construction set to begin

Crews have begun moving overhead utility wires in anticipation of the start of roundabout construction. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Many trees are sporting a new spring look near the intersection of Edgartown-Vineyard Road at Airport and Barnes Road, encased in two-by-fours for protection as construction on the roundabout begins. In preparation for the work ahead, utility company contractors are currently relocating overhead wires and other equipment that fall within the work zone.

MassDOT Highway Division supervising project manager Thomas Currier said in an email Monday that, depending on their progress, he anticipates the roadway contractor will begin construction of the roundabout and drainage work around April 1.

“The contractor is Lawrence Lynch Corporation, a very well established, experienced and skillful contractor from Falmouth,” Mr. Currier said.

Over the next several weeks work crews will construct a traffic circle for the single-lane roundabout to replace the intersection’s four-way stop with blinking warning lights. The construction contract included provisions to ensure a smooth transition for motorists and to avoid delays, according to a previous report on the project highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. gave to the Oak Bluffs selectmen.

The traffic circle will be initially paved sometime after mid-April and the final wearing surface top layer added later, Mr. Currier said. The work crews will stop construction after Memorial Day, May 27, at which time motorists can expect to be going round and round a fully operational roundabout, with temporary road markings and signs.

The roundabout project also involves pavement reconstruction, sidewalks, drainage, landscaping, and other improvements.

Lawrence Lynch anticipates having the roundabout’s drainage work and full-depth construction done by Memorial Day, Mr. Currier said.

“Full-depth” refers to the areas that require widening, for example bus pullout areas and corners near splitter islands that will separate lanes of traffic entering or exiting the roundabout.

“After Labor Day they will complete the remaining work to bring the project to substantial completion, which means almost complete but with minor work remaining,” Mr. Currier said. “They will return in the spring of 2014 to finish the punch list items.”

A large pole topped with an antennae and a propane tank and generator placed near the entrance to the Goodale Construction Plant are unrelated to the roundabout project. The equipment is part of an Oak Bluffs water department project, Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. said.

The roundabout, first proposed a decade ago and approved by Oak Bluffs selectmen in 2006, sparked months of controversy last fall when the town of West Tisbury referred the project to the MVC.

The commission hearings drew vocal opponents and hours of testimony, capped with an October 6 vote to approve the project with the chairman breaking a tie for a 7-6 majority.

A vote to rescind that approval in November failed in another close vote. Every town except Oak Bluffs opposed the project in a vaguely worded non-binding referendum question on spring ballots. Oak Bluffs voters approved of the project in a non-binding voice vote at their town meeting.

The towns of West Tisbury and Edgartown joined forces to appeal the MVC decision in court, but eventually withdrew that lawsuit. What the town officials learned from their lawyers at Goulston & Storrs, at a shared cost of approximately $34,000, is that regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation could move ahead with plans to construct a roundabout.