Public hearing likely for 41 North freight proposal

New SSA freight vessels anticipated by the end of March. 

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A truck boarding the SSA freight ferry Sankaty. —Eunki Seonwoo

A New Bedford company’s proposal to bring freight service to Vineyard Haven is under public scrutiny. 

A proposal by 41 North Offshore, which had been providing freight services between New Bedford and Nantucket, to expand its services to Martha’s Vineyard was met by some pushback. Town officials from Tisbury recently expressed concerns over the potential increase in truck traffic congesting the roads, and a lack of an impact study from 41 North Offshore. 

Trucks are a concern for Tisbury because they have to go through either Water Street or Five Corners to drive to their destination, both of which are tight areas for large vehicles. In December, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation stated in a presentation about how to improve Five Corners that there have been instances when large vehicles crossed the double yellow lines to make a turn, forcing cars to reverse from the stop lines to make room, and even cases when the vehicles mounted the sidewalk and caused dangerous situations for pedestrians. 

Tisbury Towing, a local company that provides supplemental transportation services for the SSA in Vineyard Haven, also spoke against the measure. Tisbury Towing general manager Glenn DeBlase told The Times in a previous story that the company, which has been providing services since the 1960s, had the capacity to meet growing demand. The company also has a facility in New Bedford that is easily accessible to truck drivers. 

During the Tuesday morning board meeting, SSA general manager Robert Davis said a notice issued on Jan. 30 solicited public comments on the proposal. The comment period was originally meant to close on Feb. 16, but Davis said the SSA decided to keep it open longer due to the number of letters they received. SSA spokesperson Geoff Spillane said as of Wednesday morning on Feb. 21, the SSA had received 29 letters regarding the proposal. 

Comments are being accepted until Friday, Feb. 23, and can be sent by email to rdavis@steamshipauthority.com or by regular mail to the following address: Robert Davis, c/o Steamship Authority, 228 Palmer Ave., Falmouth, MA 02540.

Having freight traffic come from New Bedford rather than Woods Hole has been a decades-long issue for Falmouth residents. Many have voiced concern over the years about wanting to keep larger trucks off the road leading into Woods Hole, and opposed early morning trucks at the Woods Hole terminal for their disruptiveness. 

Some board members said during the Tuesday meeting they weren’t against having 41 North operate a service between New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard, but felt more data was needed. 

SSA board Martha’s Vineyard representative Jim Malkin pointed out that Tisbury Towing made more than 300 trips between Martha’s Vineyard and New Bedford last year.

“So, the service exists,” Malkin said, adding he would like to know more specifically how much and what kind of demand 41 North plans to meet before making a decision.

SSA board Falmouth representative Peter Jeffrey concurred with the need for more data. 

According to Davis, Tisbury Towing is not licensed by the SSA to transport vehicles unless they’re “associated with oversize materials,” such as a modular home. 

SSA board Barnstable representative and chair Robert Jones said the “bigger picture” issue was that adding the 41 North Offshore service would be decreasing freight traffic for the authority. 

“It’s affecting the bottom line,” he said. “So you’ve got to know the impact of what every one of those licenses [will] be.” 

He added that while decreasing freight traffic may be welcomed by communities like Woods Hole or Hyannis, it could have a financial impact on the Islands. 

A public hearing will likely take place in the future regarding this topic, according to Davis.

In other news, the SSA is expecting to launch its newest freight ferries, the Aquinnah and the Barnstable, into service by the end of March. The vessels have been getting converted for the SSA at Alabama Shipyard in Mobile. 

The SSA had initially acquired three vessels, including one named the Monomoy, for $5.6 million each. The conversion estimates ended up being $13.7 million per vessel, now with over $800,000 in change orders. The third freight vessel purchased for the SSA, the Monomoy, is still awaiting its turn to be converted for service.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Though it would be more expensive, having all trucks hauling freight, trash, etc. should beset at a nominal length to accommodate the Vineyard 5 corners, narrow roads and intersections. Who writes that we must accept what the norm is off island?

  2. How about baling trash and barge it to New Bedford.
    Cheaper and eliminates lots of trucks at Five Corners that now run on the ferry schedule.

    • How about not dumping the Island’s trash in New Bedford?
      Where will the barges be loaded?
      How many trucks will be needed to load the bales onto the barges?
      How much does it cost to unload the bales from the trucks on the Island and reload them in New Bedford?
      Who owns and operates the the bailing machines, the trucks on both ends, the barges, the tug boats and the docks/ramps?
      How much cheaper will that be?
      How about the Island become self sufficient and land fill or incinerate it’s trash?
      Groundwater and air pollution concerns?
      No concern for New Bedford?

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