To the Editor:
At its last meeting of the year, the Steamship Authority’s board recently failed, again, to demonstrate new thinking, initiative, or leadership in support of off-Cape freight service to the Islands.
Freight service between Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard increased 13 percent year-to-year in October 2022, and set a record high for volume during that month. The total number of freight trucks for both Nantucket and the Vineyard increased 11 percent over October 2021.
As a result of the board’s actions, Falmouth and Barnstable residents will be increasingly impacted by excessive levels of transport. These new and additional SSA-based freight trucks will join the hundreds and hundreds of trucks that currently pass daily through our residentially zoned neighborhoods, polluting them with diesel soot, increasing congestion, and disturbing residents day and night.
We continue to wait for the SSA to issue a revised request for proposals (RFP) for off-Cape freight service to the Islands. Such service is critical to efforts to mitigate existing threats to the environment and public safely.
The SSA’s first effort on an RFP consisted of more than 70 pages of conditions and stipulations. Its complexity and inflexibility guaranteed that it would go over like a lead balloon. Poor publicity added to problems with the RFP. There was no public information session for prospective RFP applicants, and minimal outreach to transport companies or municipal authorities.
With larger freight boats already on order, one is led to the conclusion that the SSA is reneging on any moral commitments that might have been made to the residents of Falmouth and Barnstable (including a 20-year-old written commitment to the town of Barnstable). Has the SSA simply given up on a launch of off-Cape freight service to the Islands? Leaders for the islands continue to sacrifice our Cape communities to the gods of development. Can the SSA board not see this?