There are no lack of issues on Martha’s Vineyard that could use some state attention — affordable housing, the opioid crisis, and finding ways for seniors to remain in their homes, among them. We could even talk offshore wind with some of the fishermen who have concerns about what these projects will do to their livelihoods.
Communication issues with our antiquated system for first responders is a pretty good reason, too. Remember, the sheriff’s budget is under the state’s purview now, but you’re only sending funds to cover the jail, which by the way, could also use some upgrades.
So there are plenty of reasons for Governor Charlie Baker to put an Island visit on his calendar. It doesn’t hurt that he’s running for re-election.
Consider this an invitation, Mr. Governor, to come to the Vineyard and explore some of the pressing issues that could use the attention of your administration.
‘Lifeline’ needs one
The Steamship Authority ferries are often referred to as the “lifeline of the islands.” But lately, they have been letting travelers and commuters down.
We’ve come to expect weather cancellations, though the newest ferry, the $40.4 million MV Woods Hole, which was trumpeted as a “workhorse” ready to take on the tough weather crossings between Hyannis and Nantucket when it arrived in 2016, seems to be the most likely to be canceled in any storm that includes wind, let alone nor’easters. (It’s been filling in on the Martha’s Vineyard route while the real workhorse, the Island Home, is out of service for maintenance through the end of this month.) Regular riders on the Woods Hole often comment about how they feel even the slightest ripple on that ferry, so it’s no surprise that when the wind blows, it’s often among the first ferries left tied up in the slip.
Recently, after being canceled frequently by weather, the Woods Hole ran aground on a shoal in Vineyard Haven Harbor. It’s unclear which came first — mechanical issues leading to the grounding, or the grounding leading to mechanical issues — but the ferry was out of commission for the better part of two days last week, and that’s after service was interrupted for weather. The only consolation is that we’re not yet in the busy tourist season.
Then, after spending $17.5 million on a midlife refurbishment of the MV Martha’s Vineyard, that ferry had some engine troubles Saturday night, stranding passengers into the early morning hours off East Chop until the ferry could be towed back to Vineyard Haven.
And did we tell you how the SSA computer system crashed on the opening day of the reservation season? It’s a day Islanders mark on their calendars, because without making those early seasonal reservations, it’s hard to compete with all the visitors, and no one likes waiting in those endless standby lines in the summer for an off-Island trek.
All of this isn’t the worst part, Mr. Governor. No, what’s really troubling to Islanders is just how unreliable the email alerts from the Steamship Authority have become. Too often cancellation notices come well after the decision has been made and the boat was scheduled to run, which does nobody any good.
It’s 2018, and the SSA doesn’t even have a Twitter account. (Maybe you could get your party’s leader to tweet less and the Steamship Authority to tweet more. What do you think, Mr. Governor?)
Beach Road flooding
Come for the ferries, but stay for Beach Road, Mr. Governor.
You should be getting a letter from the Tisbury board of selectmen any day now telling you that Beach Road in Vineyard Haven needs some serious attention. It’s a state road, in case you’re wondering.
One selectman describes the flooding as “horrendous,” and says that it’s an “emergency.” The road is the town’s quickest route to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and these constant floods and damage to the road threaten access.
Our office is right on Beach Road, and the worst of the flooding occurs right outside our door, so we can confirm that this is a constant problem. There’s a gas station right across the street, so the flooding raises environmental concerns as well.
We hear the dramatic flooding is caused by outflow pipes that get clogged. The water has nowhere to go, and ends up back in the street, collecting more runoff.
But your Department of Transportation is in the midst of a redesign of the road, with no plans to deal with the drainage issues.
You really have to see this to believe it, Mr. Governor.
So, please, come to the Island, but don’t come on a Friday afternoon in the summer. (You’re welcome back another time for one of those.) Come now to see and hear some of the issues that are facing year-round Islanders. As we go to press, we’re in the middle of the fourth storm in less than three weeks, and there will, undoubtedly, be flooding if it’s anywhere near as serious as predicted.
So, should we book you on the MV Woods Hole or the MV Martha’s Vineyard?