Steamship Authority pitches new task force

Two new committees will tackle traffic, among other issues.

Steve Sayers, special counsel for the Steamship Authority, addresses Tisbury selectmen about a task force and a working group. - Rich Saltzberg

Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis, port council member George Balco, and special counsel Steve Sayers came before Tisbury selectmen Wednesday afternoon to seek support for a task force and a separate working group meant to address traffic concerns and other issues. 

Sayers told the board that following concerns expressed after a hearing on 2020 schedules, the SSA opted to initiate the formation of two advisory bodies to enhance public engagement in accord with the boat line’s mission statement. 

The task force would explore and make recommendations on “longer-term initiatives,” as well as traffic and logistics, Sayers said. Sayers said the task force would include two members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, two members of the Dukes County Commission, two Oak Bluffs representatives, two Tisbury representatives, two Falmouth representatives, Davis and Sayers as the SSA representatives, and potentially, two New Bedford representatives. 

Recommendations from the task force would go directly to the port council and the SSA board, Sayers said. “The task force would meet almost all the time on the Vineyard,” Sayers said. 

Falmouth selectman Doug Brown will be one of the task force representatives from Falmouth, Sayers said. 

“We expect this to be a long-term project. We expect discussions to be far-ranging,” he said. 

The working group will address traffic issues in Falmouth proper and Woods Hole. It will work “exclusively on those traffic problems,” Sayers added. 

Sayers and Alison Fletcher, SSA director of shoreside operations, will represent the SSA on the working group.

Doug Jones, a Falmouth selectman, and Woods Hole resident (and frequent SSA critic) Nat Trumbull have already been named to the working group, Sayers noted. 

Sayers did not elaborate as much on the composition of the working group as he did the task force. SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll later told The Times he expects the working group to have at least one Vineyard member. Whereas the task force will deal with what can be done in the future, the working group will “focus on practical solutions we can do now,” Driscoll said.

The selectmen voted 2-0 to authorize themselves to appoint members to the two SSA advisory bodies.