Five Corners – after the Roundabout, could it be next?


No one attempting to negotiate Five Corners Tuesday had an easy time of it. An unfortunate intersection whose prospects for an inventive and happy remodeling are widely regarded as about as dim as prospects for Middle East peace, it doesn’t actually need emergency repairs to be undertaken in June in order to be a heart-stopping puzzle for drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians. Daily, without the addition of a construction force excavating the driving surface, Five Corners is the Island’s gnarliest crossroads for Islanders, vacationers, truckers, buses, and whatever else has to get from the Vineyard’s chief port to the Island’s innards. It’s a mess.

Although the diehards hold out hope for a July 4 traffic tie-up of Five Corners proportions to prove they were right about the calamitous Roundabout, the more common view is that the replacement for the Blinker and the Four-Way Stop is an unequivocal success. After all, it preserves the vital stoplight-less-ness that is apparently a hallmark of our Island-ness — so important to so many — and it allows traffic to slip through safely no matter what direction it chooses. The Roundabout’s design also accommodates bus stops and bike path users, who include not only bikers, but walkers, skaters, kids in strollers, skateboarders, and others. The construction is not done yet, the landscaping is missing, but the traffic is flowing.

One must acknowledge that the Roundabout — about a decade in the thinking about, planning, designing, debating, funding, constructing, and beautifying — is not done yet. And, when it is done, we’ll lose a mainstay of conversation that’s been handy, especially with friends and visitors from more metropolitan environs. So, such folk, often ask, What’s going on on the Island? Any big news? And, we’ve always had the Roundabout to fall back on — Well, we’ve been arguing about replacing a Four-Way Stop with a Roundabout.

But the success — albeit not tested on July 4, or in mid-August yet — has prompted some of the most venturesome and farsighted among us to ask, Can’t we do something about Five Corners? And, the answer is, We can, and we should.

Five Corners is not an insoluble problem, and it’s a problem worth addressing. The redevelopment of the Five Corners area — indeed the redevelopment of much of the commercial property bordering that intersection, the correction of persistent drainage failures in that area, and the improvement of the adjacent waterfront and access to it will be a benefit for Islanders, their seasonal neighbors, and visitors, all of whom visit or pass through that nexus repeatedly. A planning vision, imaginative and thoughtful engineering and architectural advice, money, and time will be required, of course. But, Vineyarders are nothing if not patient in the face of possible change. If it took a decade to create a Roundabout and solve a problem at a relatively uncomplicated intersection, perhaps it will require a generation to rehabilitate Five Corners, but there isn’t a planner or engineer worth his or her salt who wouldn’t crave the opportunity, and even Vineyarders know that change when change is needed is a good thing.