On Monday, Tisbury reversed the flow of traffic on Union Street, a one-way connector road between Main Street and Water Street and the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority (SSA) terminal. The trial reversal will last one month, and is intended to gauge its effect on traffic congestion at Five Corners, easily the Vineyard’s most challenging intersection, and traffic flow along Main Street.
Not surprisingly, there was some initial confusion in the first few days. Despite ample warning, drivers who either forgot, or paid no attention to, published reports attempted to follow the familiar route and turn right off Main Street and travel down Union Street to the SSA terminal. A police officer stationed at the intersection helped remind people of the change.
Overall, motorists and pedestrians who stopped to talk to the officer said they were pleased with the change. There was limited grumbling about the loss of a few parking spaces on Main Street, removed to facilitate vehicles turning right.
The members of the Tisbury traffic committee, which recommended the trial, and Tisbury selectmen, who supported the effort, are to be commended for looking for easily achieved ways to help alleviate traffic congestion and improve the flow of vehicles. If this trial is successful, Tisbury selectmen plan to hold a public hearing and decide on a permanent change.
Town officials might wish to consider making Union Street a two-way street. The added flexibility would allow drivers to reach the SSA terminal from Main Street, and provide an option for drivers leaving the terminal and Stop and Shop. The tradeoff would be the loss of a dozen parking spaces along Union Street, in a downtown already starved for parking.
Moving the police out of the crumbling building they now occupy in the center of Vineyard Haven would open up some parking places in the town lot. It is time to admit that it made no sense, and it makes no sense, to have a police station located in the most traffic-congested part of town. The police department ought to follow the fire department and ambulance service up the road.
The departure of the fire department created a town parking lot on State Road now used for long-term parking of the type that the Park and Ride is designed to accommodate. There are 22 spaces, all leased out for $1,200 annually. Town planners might consider an alternate configuration of 22 metered spaces designed to provide short-term hourly parking of the sort badly needed.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the boatline. Traffic congestion begins with and ends with the daily arrival and departure of the ferries that bring people, cars, and trucks to the Island.
A serious effort to alleviate traffic must begin with a conversation about the feasibility of moving the SSA terminal up Beach Road. It is not a new idea. Barring that conversation, we are left with small efforts that may help, and a need for bigger ideas.
The road corridor from State Road and Main Street to Winds Up is an unsightly and congested mess of utility wire and poles. One year ago, Eversource began work on a long-anticipated project to remove four utility poles on Beach Street, between Water Street and Main Street. The poles protrude into the roadway and have been a longstanding safety hazard, amputating the passenger-side mirrors of many vehicles. Town officials must press the utility to complete the project.
The expansive bare-brick pavilion in front of the post office at the corner of Lagoon Pond Road and Beach Street serves little purpose. Is there enough room to create a travel lane for vehicles going straight and a turning lane for vehicles making a left to the SSA and Stop and Shop? It is just a thought.
It took 10 years of planning, debate, votes, and a threatened lawsuit, but one would be hard pressed to conclude that the roundabout at the intersection of Barnes Road and Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road does not work just fine. All the predicted calamities did not come to pass.
Might there be a way to construct a roundabout at Five Corners that would keep traffic moving?
Perhaps the Stop and Shop would be willing to consolidate three abutting properties and remove the existing buildings, including its existing store, in order to construct a new, two-story, 30,500-square-foot market with parking for 41 vehicles in an enclosed area on the ground level under the market.