Aquinnah selectmen aren’t happy with big blue trucks

Will send yet another letter to the tribe.

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When driving toward the Aquinnah Cliffs to catch a sunset or attend a selectmen’s meeting, the big blue trucks coming around blind corners may be a concern for some.

Selectmen voiced this concern during a Thursday meeting, saying that the trucks carrying loads of sand along State Road from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) casino construction zone to a dumpsite on tribal land create a potentially dangerous situation.

The board unanimously agreed to send a letter to the tribe requesting that all construction vehicles in transit from the worksite to the dumpsite use the lesser-traveled Moshup Trail. This way, Aquinnah residents wouldn’t need to be worried about the ubiquitous large trucks coming along the state highway.

Selectmen also asked in the letter for a schedule of trucks’ routes, and a timeline of the construction project.

“I don’t think this is safe at all,” town administrator Jeffrey Madison said of the trucks that, according to him, are driving fast and sometimes recklessly around curves in the state highway with little to no sightline.

Madison mentioned the issue of Aquinnah children getting on and off the school buses and being at risk of getting hit by the trucks. “We need to think about the children here,” Madison said. “Thank God these children have not been injured; we need to stop this before someone gets hurt.”

To make sure children will be safe when traveling to and from school, selectmen agreed to request that the trucks not be on the road during pickup and drop-off hours.

Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said he agrees that the trucks may be an inconvenience, but they unequivocally have the right to drive on State Road. “They aren’t doing anything illegal; they have the right to use that road just like anybody else,” Belain said.

Madison said the trucks often drive fast down the road, exceeding the posted speed limit.

Belain responded, saying he often conducts speed traps at the areas where the trucks drive, and he hasn’t seen any of the trucks breaking the law.

Selectman Julianne Vanderhoop said all concerns brought to the tribe by the town have been met by “nonresponse” and “lack of action.” The tribe has resisted attempts by the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to have the project reviewed by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI), citing the tribe’s sovereignty and federal oversight for the Aquinnah Cliffs Casino.

Selectman Jim Newman attempted to address the truck issue by suggesting a weight restriction be set for State Road. Selectmen said the asphalt on the road is being broken up by the intensity and frequency of large vehicle traffic.

Belain said other trucks of similar size drive on that road often, so those trucks would also be affected.

The main issue Madison highlighted was the opaqueness of the tribe’s operations on Black Brook Road, and the extent that the community (and the town) should be involved.

“We need to get a community dialogue going,” Madison said.

Vanderhoop agreed, saying, “We are really trying to be safe and responsible here. For the well-being of the town of Aquinnah, we need to fix this — it’s tragic for Islanders.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Now it’s not really any of my business, as I’m neither a member of the tribe or a resident of Aquinnah. However, if I had to guess, I’d say that these selectmen might have a problem with the casino itself and the trucks are just a side story.

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