Allowing unbridled expansion without a traffic study


To the Editor:

The cost of development on Martha’s Vineyard is steep both on- and off-Island. An ever-increasing number of boat runs are needed to transport the building materials, trash removal, food, medicine, construction debris, trucks, cars, summer residents, tourists, and other needs of the Vineyard.

Residents on both sides of Vineyard Sound pay a high price with noise, pollution, traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, and sleeplessness due to freight truck scheduling. It is likely that there are health issues related to the tens of thousands of freight trucks passing each year through our residential neighborhoods, within 15 feet of some of our homes. Hundreds of trucks drive daily on two-lane roads never designed to handle such heavy freight truck weight and volume.

There has been a move to expand off-Cape shipping to the Islands to alleviate some of the impact of freight operations on the Cape’s port community residents. To this end, the Steamship Authority put out a request for proposals in 2022 to third-party carriers for adding freight service out of New Bedford. No proposals were received at the time. Subsequently, New Bedford–based 41 North Offshore has proposed running an on-demand freight service to the Vineyard, after launching a successful on-demand freight service to Nantucket.

At a recent Tisbury Select Board meeting, 41 North’s new proposal was discussed. Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande stated that before any such agreement could be made, a traffic study should be performed for the town of Tisbury. The need is out of concern for increased traffic congestion in Vineyard Haven, Grande argued.

Have Tisbury’s leaders finally woken up to the realization that the Vineyard’s growth and demand for freight is having an increasingly negative impact on Vineyard port communities, and possibly others? Might Tisbury leaders be considering the increasingly negative impacts of the Vineyard’s freight traffic on Falmouth and Barnstable in addition to the Vineyard?

While Vineyard businesses benefit from the growth in truck commerce, it is difficult for Cape residents to identify similar advantages for Cape businesses. The vast majority of Island-bound trucks and goods come directly from off-Cape, and do not involve Cape businesses. 

Tisbury would like the SSA to pay for a traffic impact study to determine whether 41 North’s operations will have a negative impact on Tisbury. If such a study is required, then the Steamship Authority should be required to pay for traffic impact surveys of its freight operations in those Cape port communities that are equally burdened by Island growth.


Damien Kuffler
Woods Hole