Woods Hole overburdened by hosting M.V.’s only port


To the Editor:

Responsible Steamship Authority governance? At 9:05 today I noticed a rank smell in the house. I sniffed out the garbage, compost, and sink drains, and all were in good order. I went outside and was assaulted by a fetid wave of fermenting garbage. I walked over to the SSA, where the prevailing wind was coming from. Indeed, within five minutes, a huge garbage-hauling truck with the telltale soft cover strapped to the top of it unloaded from a ferry and proceeded over the bridge to Woods Hole Road, leaving a trail of putrid fragrance in its wake. During the height of the summer, this is a regular occurence, which sometimes includes leaking liquid. 

This is only a minor example of the blowback the mainland ports are suffering. Add it to the early morning, 5:30am, and late night,10:15 pm, freight traffic, the constant flow of tanker trucks, Carroll’s trucks, Cape Cod Express trucks, septage trucks, and garbage (because the Vineyard cannot process its own), Stop & Shop trucks, and special events traffic, and it becomes clear that the mainland ports are as overburdened as Martha’s Vineyard has become. 

Why, I ask myself, are the mainland ports forced to carry the burden of Martha’s Vineyard’s ever-increasing nonviability? More importantly, how can the Vineyard start to solve its issues?

Island governance needs to move forward with establishing a second lifeline to the Vineyard. To do this, it needs to pressure the SSA to govern in a more effective and responsible manner.

The SSA’s mission of providing adequate services to the Vineyard is at capacity due to the bottleneck that their main terminal of Woods Hole presents, and the two aging bridges that give access to the Cape. If the SSA monopoly persists and refuses to accept and encourage a competitive New Bedford route, then the SSA, itself, should provide the service from New Bedford. This is where the Island’s representative to the SSA, James Malkin, should energetically support all initiatives to provide service out of New Bedford. To date the SSA refuses to offer the Vineyard the security that a second port would supply, and the relief it would provide to its already overburdened main port of Woods Hole. Lip service to establishing a second option of water access to and from the Vineyard has been their pattern of resistance for years.

The SSA’s current focus is building an outrageously expensive and oversize terminal building while their fleets of dinosaur carbon-spewing buses and vessels (their lifeblood) fast approach obsolescence, and their existing mainland ports are overburdened.

Just this morning I learned of an ongoing Hyannis-Nantucket vessel breakdown which has forced the SSA to reroute Nantucket freight through Woods Hole, putting additional unanticipated pressure on the operations in Woods Hole. Should an accident due to overtaxed operations occur in Woods Hole, traffic to the Vineyard would at the least be delayed and at the worst be shut down for an indeterminate amount of time. The Vineyarders would then have their lives disrupted on many levels.

The SSA needs to be proactive and institute responsible business practices that can accommodate the Vineyard’s growth, including opening a port in New Bedford and updating its bus and vessel fleets. Not only will these steps ensure smoother operations but they will also mitigate the air and water pollution which the out-of-date fleets exacerbate. The Vineyard’s viability and the quality of life that the residents of the mainland and the islands cherish are at stake. 


Pam Stark
Woods Hole