To the Editor:
The views of the Barnstable member of the Steamship Authority board are a disservice to Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape residents.
At a recent SSA board meeting, the Barnstable appointee, Robert Jones, objected at length to an outside party’s proposal to provide backhauling services by barge for recyclables and refuse from the Nantucket transfer station to New Bedford. The proposed new freight service would help to reduce truck congestion, pollution, and noise, and would increase safety on Barnstable and other Cape roads.
The barge carrier made a convincing argument that removing recyclables and refuse from Nantucket to the mainland on a barge now traveling empty on its backhaul leg would be an environmental win.
The Barnstable appointee objected that licensing any competitor for Nantucket freight service would reduce revenue for the SSA. He calculated that loss to the SSA monopoly to be $186,000 annually.
A proposal for the more diversified route for freight service to and from the Vineyard would likely meet the same misplaced objection from Mr. Jones. That is, he would reject a more resilient and more competitive solution of supplementary freight service for Vineyard residents and businesses to and from off-Cape ports.
The SSA is far from insolvent. It has received tens of millions of federal funds in recent years. The SSA’s spending on the Woods Hole terminal project continues to be extravagant (see the $5 million new decorative canopies that protect no passengers from the elements). Mr. Jones’ position in defense of the SSA monopoly makes little or no sense, financially and environmentally. The thinking is a throwback to a Steamship Authority and island freight service of decades ago. The SSA’s priorities continue to be misplaced.