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Votes are In - Islanders Do Not Want Roundabout

Now that the roundabout votes have been tallied, we asked the members of the Stop the Roundabout Movement what they think should happen next?

Last week’s vote in Aquinnah brought the total number of Islanders who voted on the nonbinding referendum roundabout question to 2,558. While a strong showing of yeas were raised in support of the roundabout at the Oak Bluffs town meeting (where the roundabout question was on the warrant, but not on the ballot) there was quite a different result in the rest of the towns.

Of those 2,558 voters, only 635 voters said yes to the construction of a roundabout at the four-way stop at the corner of Edgartown Vineyard Haven Road and Barnes Road. The other 1,923 voters said no.

In Aquinnah the vote was 44 – 9; Chilmark 180 – 65; Edgartown 508 – 171; Tisbury 686 – 215 and West Tisbury 505 – 175.

Back in February, we asked the community members who were behind the to weigh in as to why they felt so strongly about their views. With the results of the recent votes tallied, we again asked the group to tell us what they think those results mean, or should mean for the Island. We heard back from Vineyard Haven business owner Craig Hockmeyer, West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel and West Tisbury resident, writer and editor Susanna Sturgis.

We also asked for a response regarding the voting results from the but did not receive a response by press time.

Richard Knabel, West Tisbury selectman, issued the following statement:

“The extremely heavy vote in five of our six towns against building a roundabout at the important blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs confirms, again, what many elected officials, like myself, have been hearing from our constituents for years: “We don’t want it!” It’s just that simple. Had there been a ballot question in Oak Bluffs I would venture to say the result there would not have been materially different from the roughly 3-1 landslide against it in the other towns. It’s hard to be in elected office and not be responsive to an overwhelming one-sided vote like that, despite its being non-binding. I know that if I were running for office and knew that 75% of my constituency were on one side of a particular issue I would have to think long and hard before I either ignored that fact, or I dug in my heels and tried to convince that super majority it was wrong.

Given the long-term, broad-based, grassroots citizen activism against it, the seemingly unstoppable progress of this controversial and very disliked roundabout proposal is astonishing. What I find particularly disquieting is why one town, in this case Oak Bluffs, would want to impose on its five neighbor towns what those neighbors so clearly don’t want. On the one hand, I, as are other elected officials on the Vineyard, am aware of the fierce sense of sovereignty that exists in our towns (the late Art Flathers said with great insight, “The Vineyard is not an island. It is six islands connected by land”). On the other hand, we are irrevocably all neighbors, we all use the blinker intersection, what happens there as a solution to traffic issues affects everyone.

So, given the ballot results, I would respectfully propose to the Oak Bluffs Selectmen that, as sensitive and considerate neighbors, they consider telling the State DOT to put the contract and the financing to build the ‘roundabout’ on hold; that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission initiate an inclusive process, one that specifically recognizes and respects the clear results of the ballot initiatives, to address the problems at the blinker intersection, such as they may be. In other words, find a different solution. I’m not trying to make an already awkward situation worse, but my parents taught me that neighbors shouldn’t behave in ways they know will irritate those around them merely because they can. Let’s try to be good neighbors.”

Craig Hockmeyer, Vineyard Haven business owner, issued the following statement:

“When I arrived on Maui this winter, I learned that a roundabout was being built at a 4-way stop in Kihei, right near a shopping mall. The scenario is almost identical to ours here on MV; a 4 way stop where the main road is heavily travelled, and the side/cross road used much less. It also has a parallel bike path on the side road. I wondered how long it would take to build, as the road was closed for 5 months during construction. It was re-opened in mid-April and I witnessed the cars and cyclists using it.

Truth be told; it works well. I think a roundabout at our Blinker intersection will work fine. Talk of traffic backing up in other towns will go silent, as I'm sure it will prove. My big worry of bicycles trying to cross on the path might still be an issue when larger groups will stop roundabout traffic while they use the cross-walks. Cyclists skilled and brave enough to act as traffic and enter the circle will also have to stop and wait for cross-walkers, so there will still be that issue of cars wanting to "always go," and those travellers yielding to those in the cross-walk. I still fear someone getting hurt and then talk of putting in a stop light, even pedestrian-activated, will come back and we will have the scenario I've always feared: An ugly, off-island looking roundabout and a stop light.

So really the big question is: Do we like how this looks? Do we want a modern off-island roundabout? With all the signs and splinters and lights? This traffic device looks fine and normal in Kihei; where just down the street is a mall containing Safeway, Starbucks, RoundTable Pizza, Jamba Juice, Outback, etc. Also up the street from that roundabout is a four-lane highway and many traffic lights. So is a roundabout the right thing to do with our "blinker" intersection? Unfortunately, as far as car traffic goes, I have to say yes.

Martha's Vineyard is drifting toward looking just like the mainland. Much has happened over the last 40 years and each drop in the bucket does matter. Will there be resistance if I want to convert my bike shop into a Dick's Sporting Goods? or a TGI Friday's? We already have Stop N Shop, Napa, UPS Store, Century 21, Shell, West Marine, Cumberland Farms, United States Post Office, (We all liked 02568, but it "had to go"). Will there be a Casino? How 'bout a bridge to the mainland? All of that once sounded absurd, and for many it still does. For many though, especially new-comers, visitors, and off-island planners; it all makes perfect sense. Just imagine how many jobs might be provided by a bridge, or a Casino." 

 

Susanna Sturgis, writer, editor and West Tisbury resident, issued the following statement:

“The election results confirmed in spades what I learned when I was out collecting anti-roundabout signatures: popular opinion is overwhelmingly against this thing. Since the percentage against was well over 70% in five island towns (over 80% in Aquinnah), I think it's a safe bet that the result in Oak Bluffs would have been similar if the OB selectmen had allowed the town's citizens to vote by secret ballot.

If it were up to Vineyard voters, there would be no roundabout at the blinker. Unfortunately, it's not up to us. It's up to the state -- to MassDOT and, ultimately, the governor. I wish I could say I was confident they'd do the right thing, but I'm not. Martha's Vineyard doesn't even have the electoral clout to influence our state senator and our state rep. Clout is what matters, and I'm afraid MassDOT and Greenman Petersen Inc. (GPI), the contractor, have much more clout at the State House than we do.

I didn't get involved in fighting the roundabout till early last summer. Like many other Vineyarders, I thought the project was dead till it came roaring back in April 2011. We've made a lot of headway since then, but all the while I've been asking How did this boondoggle get this far? At what point did the Vineyard lose control of the process?"

As I understand it, we lost control of the process when the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen signed the contract giving the state financial and managerial control of the project. Most likely that contract would never have been drawn up, never mind signed, if the elected and appointed members of Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) had been paying closer attention and asking more rigorous questions in the period from 2004 through 2006.

Popular opinion was mobilized against the roundabout in those years -- and it was totally blown off. In 2011 and 2012 it's been blown off again. What's the message here? That there's no point in getting involved. No matter how well you do your research and present your arguments, no matter how many people you've got on your side, you're not going to be heard.

And guess what? The ones who aren't listening aren't the so-called "1%." Many of them are our very own elected officials, and some of them live right up the road from us. For me the big lesson here is that we need to wake up, believe we can make a difference, then pull together to make our voices heard.”

What do you think it means that the results of the nonbinding referendum came out so strongly against the proposed roundabout? What do you think is the right course of action? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Erik Albert May 16, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Richard Knabel parents taught him "neighbors shouldn’t behave in ways they know will irritate those around them merely because they can. Let’s try to be good neighbors.” So why doesn't he come out against his town's exclusive policies at Lambert's Cove Beach, a town park?
Craig Hockmeyer May 16, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Thanks Mathea for keeping this important topic alive. One Vineyard newspaper thinks we are crazy! A point of mine that got edited is that I do NOT think the roundabout that is proposed here on MV is appropriate. The one shown in the thumbnail includes 4 ADA approved bus stops, and if built as shown will look like a huge piece of City in the middle of the island. While I do think a simple roundabout (like the Kihei one) would function well, I'm opposed to development that is over-blown and out-of-scale to MV. I have posted pics and short videos of the Kihei roundabout on FaceBook "No Roundabout at Blinker".
steve auerbach May 16, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I looked in vain in Mr. Knabel's and Ms. Sturgis's comments for the actual reasons why they are so opposed to the Roundabout. It appears to be simply a vote against change, as if there haven't been far greater changes on our Island over the years. The negative votes in the towns was (again, in my opinion) more the result of the opposition whipping up anti-roundabout frenzy than anything else. Though I have my own doubts as to the necessity of the state spending a million bucks to relieve seasonal traffic, both the OB Selectmen (twice) and the MV Commission (twice) backed it. It just seems to me that this fervent opposition is way overblown. Remember, a roundabout is small; it is not a rotary. Traffic feeding into the roundabout will move slowly and steadily, and the impact on the far worse traffic jams at the each end of the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Rd. will be, in my opinion, negligible.
Susanna J. Sturgis May 16, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Steve, have you been paying attention over the last year? For this story, Patch editor Mathea Morais asked us to respond to the recent non-binding referendum votes, and that's what we did. Richard, I, and others have written plenty about our specific reasons for opposing the roundabout. If you'd been following the MVTimes (including the ever-entertaining comments), the Gazette, or MVPatch, not to mention my blog, From the Seasonally Occupied Territories, you'd have a better understanding of why we and so many other Vineyarders are against it. The notion that "anti-roundabout frenzy" was "whipped up" by the opposition is a hoot. The (semi-)organized opposition is small. The opposition to the roundabout is huge. People who think this is "simply a vote against change" aren't paying attention to the specifics. The safety arguments presented by the engineers were overblown: it was roundabout opponents who pointed out that there was virtually no evidence that roundabouts improved safety at four-way stops. At that point proponents started going on about traffic backups and congestion. There are better, less disruptive ways to deal with that. And about the process leading up to this thing I've written about elsewhere: short version is "it stinks." Badly enough to give pause even to proponents of the project.
Craig Hockmeyer May 16, 2012 at 03:20 PM
It really is about development Steve. Look at the pics I posted on FB. That Kihei Roundabout is pretty small and simple, and still looks like off-island city. The one proposed here has alot more concrete and pull-outs, and I can't imagine all the signage that will be needed. The real question is: Do we want to develop like this? Do we want to look just like the mainland? There still are some pesky safety issues which I've raised and my point about having both a roundabout AND a stop light are still daunting. We care. And we care about our "Rural Charm". It's more than just traffic mitigation to us.
Brian Smith May 16, 2012 at 05:45 PM
The facts for the opposition are quite simple. A roundabout will not be safer. It's a suburban configuration out of context with the rural character of the island. For cars travelling on Barnes or Airport roads It effectively returns us to the previous two way stop scenario during the busy season. We are paving over Land Bank conservation property. Most importantly don't have a road problem, we have a seasonal car problem.
Theodore Jochsberger May 16, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I’m sure that the handful of supporters for the roundabout are sincere. But the bottom line is that they are just a handful. When 75% of the residents oppose a project, it seems to me that there’s something wrong with the project and that the people we elected should listen. Of course, if they don’t, the same 75% might just vote them out of office. As far as Mr. Hockmeyer’s statements about allowing the commercialization of the Island, he should look to places where this has happened. The people who call this island home live here to get away from the insanity of other parts of America such as Boston, NY and even Maui. Yes, there are some chains on the Island, but Stop & Shop, the gas stations, UPS and the USPS, really don’t affect the character of the Island. Mr. Hockmeyer seems to suggest that constructing the roundabout would open the door to establishing other totems of “civilization” (Starbucks, Wal-Mart’s?); and this is indeed possible. But the detriment to the life on the Island would be incalculable - all to please a few impatient off-islanders for a few hours during the summer, people who can’t understand or appreciate what Vineyard life is all about. A bridge and a casino? It would create lots of jobs – and a lot of crime. There are few enough tranquil places on the planet, can’t we just preserve the one we’re privileged to live on? Ted Jochsberger
Martha Magee May 16, 2012 at 10:19 PM
The people have spoken. And so it is!
Craig Hockmeyer May 17, 2012 at 11:52 AM
What's that story of putting a frog in a pot of water, then turning on the heat? Indeed I have seen the commercialization of this island and the island of Maui as my first visit there was 1985. Back then they had very few traffic lights. I met an elder on the plane once who commented on how the island was "ruined". I still do think MV has lots of Rural Charm. That's really the whole point I'm trying to make; how do we identify and qualify developments that are 'raising the temperature'? I think the proposed roundabout is one of those developments that is a huge drop in the bucket. Not so long ago there was no StopNShop, UPS Store, Century21, West Marine or Napa. Where and how do we draw the line? The temperature IS rising,no?
Lindsay Tossberg May 17, 2012 at 12:37 PM
each time we widen a road, put in a new development, add another commercial venture where there wasn't one before we are losing a piece of the island...the roundabout is no exception...it is an expensive, massive solution for what is a small, seasonal problem...and yes, I have sat in the lines...but to pave over earth for a 10 minute time saver is nuts
steve auerbach May 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM
The Southern Woodlands proposed development was one to get heated up about; the proposed wind farm off MV waters could have a large impact on our coastal environment and thus deserves close scrutiny; coastal erosion and climate change merit our concern; the Roundabout falls far short of those issues. This is not a pure democracy; it is a representative one. (I would guess that if votes were taken in each town whether to allow Island residents access to Lambert's Cove Beach, the majorities favoring access would be even more lopsided.) The body charged with adjudicating "regional" disputes is the Martha's Vineyard Commission and they do pay close attention to the issues, believe it or not. The population of our Island has increased greatly over the past few decades, thus bringing changes to the idealized character that once existed here (though the blinker light intersection has never been one of the tranquil spots on MV). But this is still a lovely place, despite the addition (and convenience) of some commercial development. To say that the roundabout is the beginning of the end is just ridiculous. But that's enough from me. I'm just going to wait and see, whether the construction of the Roundabout ruins the character of the Island, or whether the whole controversy turns out to be a tempest in a teapot.
ScottRAB May 17, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I don't ask the milkman about my heart disease. I don't check with my phsyician about an engine noise in my car. Why would I ask my neighbor about what's the safest intersection with the least delay and lowest life cycle cost? Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Search www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts.
Brian Smith May 17, 2012 at 07:36 PM
ScottRab, You are just plain wrong. Even the engineers pushing the project cited NCHRP Report 672 which states “there is no statistical change in safety between a four way stop intersection and a roundabout”. Where many people are mistaken is that roundabouts almost exclusively replace signalized intersections. In that scenario I agree they are safer. But a scenario where all vehicles come to a complete stop is by far the safest solution. Therefore very little data exists comparing the safety of a roundabout to a four way stop. If you already have a safe solution why change? If you neighbor spent months researching a particular topic I think you'd be foolhardy in not asking their advice.
Andrew May 27, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Brian Smith, you are incorrect. A scenario in which all vehicles come to a full stop is in fact not the safest solution. Because the fact is, not all vehicles do come a full stop when they are told to. It's easy to blow through a four-way intersection. You cannot do this at a roundabout. Roundabouts are about controlled, safe speeds. It's about interacting with fellow drivers. It's a shame that your community rejected a form of change that involves reducing pollution and having the potential to save lives. If this kind of change is wrong or like "the mainland", then good for them. Too bad for you.
Brian Smith May 27, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Andrew You have no grasp of the facts. Unlike most roundabouts there's an overwhelming amount of traffic entering from the east-west direction which will create back ups on the north south route which negates any reduction in pollution. You also haven't read the traffic engineers report that states that roundabouts are not more safe than a four way stop. The facts are the facts. I urge you to become informed, know the facts and then give an opinion.
Andrew May 27, 2012 at 01:58 AM
Have you driven in a modern roundabout outside of Massachusetts lately? I'm not referring to rotaries. I'm curious because modern roundabouts work in most cases in which they're built. After carefully studying this specific intersection on Googlemaps, it appears to me that your assumption that traffic is heavier on the East-West basis could hold some truth. However, traffic volume appears equal on a North-South basis as well. The intersection of Barnes Road and Vineyard Haven Road is right in the middle of three more densely populated areas: Vinyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown. Include the airport, and you could see equal traffic flow in all directions depending on intended destination. I believe ScottRAB stated the facts best. The IIHS now recommends roundabout construction in areas where implementation is feasible. The fact that most residents voted against construction doesn't mean that a roundabout wouldn't be best for the area. The fact that it was considered in the first place means that it's a viable option to mitigating traffic safely for the future. I don't live in your community but the facts are facts. How do you prevent a fatal left-hand turn crash? By installing traffic lights? I'm sorry, but that is not the proven way to do so. Roundabouts are the future in this country.
Brian Smith May 27, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Andrew, You are just not educated enough to weigh in on this subject. Do you realize the problem is for only 10 weeks a year? Do you understand that we all make a living that's dependent upon our towns NOT being like everywhere else? Do you get that we don't want to make the same mistakes that your suburb has made? Do you understand that there doesn't exist any safety problems at this intersection? Have you ever driven through it? We are not like your town and god forbid we never want to be like your town!
Andrew May 27, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Great, you've got that independent spirit that makes your town unique. I can respect that. My town is not marred by sprawl, nor is it a failure because of our ability to adapt to cutting-edge infrastructure methods. When I drive through a roundabout, I experience freedom. It's an ability to judge when I can drive, when I need to wait. And above all, they are SAFE. Why must you continue to brush that off? 10 weeks of the year, sure. 10 weeks of the year and your economy is on the line. I am perfectly educated on the subject.
Brian Smith May 27, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Andrew, Here are the facts............. Roundabouts compared to a signalized or 4 way stop are NOT safe . NCHRP Report 672 which states “there is no statistical change in safety between a four way stop intersection and a roundabout”. The report also states “Safety studies on bicyclists at roundabouts have mixed findings….. in Britain, bicyclists fare worse in terms of crashes at roundabouts than at signalized intersections.” A study in France determined that “Proportionally, two-wheel vehicle users were more often involved in crashes (+16%) at roundabouts than at signalized intersections. Furthermore, the consequences of such crashes were more serious.” Unlike suburbia USA we have thousands of bikes traveling this intersection during a short seasonal period. Now they are visible and cross at a crosswalk at the intersection. The roundabout has them crossing at a point where vehicular traffic s accelerating away from the intersection. Very dangerous indeed. You cannot make an a viable argument for this roundabout.
Craig Hockmeyer May 27, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I gotta tell you guys; I've come full circle on this. Pun intended, I witnessed for myself the installation of a roundabout that had our exact set of circumstances. 4-way stop, parallel bike path. Please look at the pic, and especially the short videos of the Kihei roundabout I posted on FB/No Roundabout At Blinker. I think a roundabout at The Blinker would work great year-round. I think it'll be safe, and will reduce traffic back-up and pollution. And I'm still opposed to the current proposal. Why? Because the proposal we have is for something much bigger than the one I witnessed on Maui. My 2 big objections have always been the Off-Island look, and the safety of cyclists/pedestrians. The Vineyard Roundabout includes 4 ADA-Approved bus stops with 80' of 12 foot wide concrete on each corner. It also includes a pedestrian-activated stop light. Not even discussed is the placement and appearance of signage.
Craig Hockmeyer May 27, 2012 at 06:05 PM
...continued: If the Vineyard roundabout was small,"country-looking", and engineered to fit the current intersection, I might be in favor of it. Many have said a simple right turn lane on each road would accomplish all we need. I suggested studying alternatives including a "smartlight" system. I think what us not-for-change folks want is to keep the Rural Island Charm, and not simply go the way of the Mainland. We think it's important to take the time and develop carefully. The State does not speak this language and cannot understand what we're talking about. How do we go about making the point of "charm" and balance it against safety/efficiency? Our points about safety, traffic backing up elsewhere, and trucks not fitting thru the device have fallen to the evidence at hand. Roundabouts do work. The only remaining issue is, do we wnt to look like off-island? The Nantucket Roundabout is scaled to fit the small town. Even though our blinker doesn't have that "charm", the Island still does in many places and many of us don't want one more off-island development. If we must develop, lets take the time to engineer-in what we like about our specific limited environment.

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