Chappy Ferry line report fuels continuing traffic debate

In this screen shot from the Chappy Ferry website, a line of vehicles wait for passage at 12:45 pm, Wednesday.

Edgartown selectmen returned Monday night to the long-running and contentious issue of the Chappy Ferry line. Once again, tempers flared as

homeowners along Simpson Lane, the main staging area for vehicles headed to Chappaquiddick, and the Edgartown board of selectmen locked horns over efforts to ameliorate the congestion.

The catalyst was a report by Woody Filley, Chappaquiddick resident and owner of Community Supported Solutions, on the issues fueling the conflict. Seven property owners along Simpson’s Lane had threatened a lawsuit if the town did not adequately resolve their complaints about vehicles staging for the Chappy Ferry. With the threat of legal action in the air, in May selectmen and the Chappaquiddick Island Association agreed to split the cost, and commissioned Mr. Filley to develop possible solutions to the ongoing problem of traffic congestion due to the line of vehicles waiting to board the ferry.

Mr. Filley’s proposal consisted of three phases: gathering, synthesizing, and making information available to those involved; gathering input from the community through public meetings, and individual and group interviews; and evaluating and prioritizing the results of the previous two phases, focusing on those recommendations most acceptable to the community.

Mr. Filley attended the Monday meeting to present Phase 1 of his proposal.

Ferry owner Peter Wells and Edgartown Police Chief David Rossi were also present to hear the report, as well as a half-dozen residents of Simpson Lane.

Mr. Filley presented a time-lapse video taken from the Chappy ferry website, showing the number of vehicles that line up along Simpson Lane in Edgartown. The video showed traffic that appeared heavy at times, and at other times much less so.

Mr. Filley told selectmen that some initiatives have been put in place already: Lines were painted marking where the cars must line up and where the driveways are located; the Edgartown police department has increased its presence along the ferry line; and there are plans to erect a ticket kiosk in August to help expedite the ticketing process.

Some possible solutions he cited included addressing the through traffic on Simpson Lane and the traffic on Dock Street that impact the vehicles coming off the ferry, and looking at an area in front of the old Edgartown library where there are a few parking spots available to stage large vehicles.

Live with it

After viewing the video, selectman Michael Donaroma said it looked like there was a “good size of improvement over the past couple of years.” He said the cars were moving in the video, and that the added policemen and painted lines seemed to make a difference. And, he said, “there is traffic backed up everywhere this time of year.”

“There’s a degree where we realize we have to live with it,” Mr. Donaroma said.

“Overall, it’s a short period of time,” selectman Margaret Serpa added. She said she walks by Simpson Lane every day: “It hasn’t been as bad as it has been in the past.”

Simpson Lane residents were having none of it.

“Try living in our houses, you’ll see how bad it is,” one Simpson Lane resident said.

Residents also expressed their frustration at not knowing the meeting with Mr. Filley was scheduled to take place on Monday. Ms. Serpa told them the selectmen’s meetings are always posted on the town’s website and posted at town hall.

“So the onus is on us to check your website every day?” a resident asked from the audience.

As the conversation continued, the selectmen began to display signs of their own frustration.

“You people built houses on a length of street that used to have two individual driveways,” Ms. Serpa said.

“Time out. That’s not a true statement,” resident Tim O’Connell said.

“You people?” Beth O’Connor, a Simpson Lane resident, protested.

“And the town let us build those houses at a pretty penny,” Liza Murrell, another Simpson Lane homeowner, chimed in.

Ms. Murrell told the selectmen that her children have to try to get past not only vehicles in the line but also the trucks in the through traffic that drives down Simpson Lane.

“Every single day I have to get an escort to get out,” Ms. Murrell said. She also said drivers in the line have gotten into altercations with her husband.

Finally, Mr. Donaroma said the issue of the Chappy Ferry line is a struggle, but that efforts were underway to address it.

“We’re all watching what’s going on,” he said.

As the meeting wound down, town administrator Pam Dolby suggested that a test run of a reservation system for large trucks take place, and that signs reading “no thru way,” “do not enter,” “Chappy staging area” be posted at Simpson Lane. Residents said they doubted the signs would work without being enforced.

Actions and reactions

After the meeting, Mr. Donaroma told The Times that the selectmen would continue to examine the issue.

“It’s already changed a lot,” he said. “Some say there shouldn’t be anybody using it [Simpson Lane]. It’s not going to be that way; it’s going to be something in the middle.”

In a telephone conversation on Tuesday, Mr. Filley said he’s received letters from people suggesting solutions from building a bridge or a tunnel to moving the entire ferry enterprise to a new location.

“If you moved all the traffic out of town, you have to think about what the impact would be. Everything comes with an impact,” he said.

He said he’s developed a site that contains an analysis of the ferry line. Mr. Filley said he’s also looked at the makeup of the people waiting in line — visitors, residents, people who are working on Chappy, others who are leaving Chappy to get to work. He said he’s trying to get a snapshot of the whole picture.

As far as the Simpson Lane residents, Mr. Filley said, “I completely understand their frustration. Part of the problem is what level of change people can live with.”

He said he plans to meet with Simpson Lane residents on Saturday, August 6, and that he has spoken with the Chappaquiddick Island Association already. He said he will continue with his proposal, gathering ideas and input from the community and stakeholders, and then evaluating and prioritizing that information.

“There are many different perspectives,” he said. “You saw a level of frustration from the selectmen, too. People are putting forth effort and resources, and at some point we have to clarify what’s a realistic expectation and then work from there.”