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Yo Momma’s So Fat, But Even She Can't Fit Around The Rotary

How The Jersey Turnpike Is coming to our Island.

We were blissfully unaware, taking our walks in the sweet fragrant air, in whatever season. Even on our most casual errands, we beheld beauty on all sides – on the way to the supermarket, a saltwater inlet to the right, Nantucket Sound to the left, on the drive home from Menemsha, an ancient stone wall bounded by open fields and, in the distance, a doe and Bambi.

Then . . . in a room somewhere, under fluorescent lights, town officials began to play with an idea for a quaint-sounding “roundabout” that would ease drivers through an intersection that sometimes jams up in the summer. And in another fluorescent-lit room in our capital city, state officials began to assemble suitcases of money.

Beware government dollars. They come with a price. The price in this case is an offer to build a charming-sounding “roundabout,” but no effort has been made to design one befitting our Island’s scenic qualities. Oh no. Someone opened a file cabinet and pulled out a blueprint for, I'm guessing, a recent beaut of a rotary constructed in, oh, let’s say Pawtucket (with apologies to citizens of Pawtucket, it’s just a funny name and, from what I gather, a bit of an industrial eyesore in places such as the spot where this hypothetical rotary was popped in).

H. L. Mencken said it best. In the early 1920s, on the train ride from New York to Philly which whisked him past warehouses, billboards, dilapidated buildings, and feed lots, he wrote, “Americans have a positive libido for the ugly.”

Meanwhile. our town officials who have made this jolly “roundabout” their baby, and our Martha’s Vineyard Commissioners who are supposed to protect us from aesthetic horrors, and certainly the state engineers, all of these guys and gals possess this above-mentioned libido aplenty, so much so that I’m wondering what Sigmund Freud would have surmised about misdirected sexual energies.  

But I digress.

So here we are, euphoric for having grown up here or moved to this edenic place. We’re thrilled, most of us, to live free from strip malls and McDonalds and massive highway structures. Some of us spin sugarplum visions of turning our island into a place where pedestrian malls can flourish, and bike lanes grace the streets, and where travelers feel free and delighted to visit without their cars.

A year or so ago, we got a peek in the papers at the grand design. 

I realize I exaggerate. I dramatize. But here’s my description of the roundabout, hereinafter known as the rotary: It looks like it could land a 747, as long as that jumbo jet, as it hits the tarmac, twirls in a pretzel pattern. Meandering concrete walls could accommodate all the Island’s avid roller-bladers in the ten months that this monolith stands empty. In the center spaces, landscapers are providing us with garden plots so trim and municipal-looking that Polly Hill, rest her precious soul, would take one look at them and be reminded not of her arboretum’s acres, but of her Falmouth periodentist’s courtyard where he and his assistants nip out to grab a smoke.

I feel like Cassandra howling at the gods for sending a 10-story-high wooden horse to the gates of Troy, and having those nincompoops take it in.

How did this happen?               

Last spring 75% of town voters said, basically about the proposed rotary: shudder the thought. All voters, that is to say, except those of Oak Bluffs. No, in O.B., where this lovely idea was hatched, the selectmen comported themselves like strongmen in a Soviet bloc country circa 1970. They ix-nayed the rotary question on the town ballot. Why? Well, it really didn't matter how our opinions shook out: A big whacking majority of the rest of the island had already expressed a big fat "NO" to the project, but those few people with their fingers on this button are mad to press it.              

What can we do?

Many of us may have protested stuff back in the day, but we long ago hung up our spurs, and we’re here on the Vineyard to be kind to each other, or at the very least, civil, and to breathe in the beauty. We'd also love to go on dreaming the dream that thousands of ton of concrete and rebar and big glops of something resembling pink slime in hamburger meat set in clear plastic, could never be imposed on us.

But it is being imposed, like it or not. It’s official. It’s coming. The woman whose property is being seized by that dubious, even nefarious law of imminent domain is taking the land grab to court. This might give us a stay of execution. Execution of our sense and sensibility.

But, I fear, my friends, it will happen.

Unless . . . unless we can pull together an island-wide protest. Unless anyone has a better idea (and most people do), may I suggest we gather at the Blinking Lights at noon on December 26th, Boxing Day, as Lord Grantham would call it. Bring your left-over egg nog and Aunt Cici’s cookies, and bring Aunt Cici too, and Grandma and the kids and the dogs. Let’s fill up that intersection amid surrounding woods as far as the eye can see. We can hold up signs such as “WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ STATE DOLLARS” and “WHAT’S WRONG WITH A SIMPLE STOP-LIGHT WITH AN OFF SWITCH FOR THE WINTER?”

I’ll be there. December 26, my homies. Even if it’s just me and my own silly sign, and maybe my silly dog. But if you’re not joining me, can you drop off Aunt Cici’s cookies anyway?

Holly Nadler December 10, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Steve, dear, if we can't practice democracy on sweet little MV, there is no hope for the bigger, messier world out there. A HUGE MAJORITY of Islanders dislike this plan. Who made our selectmen God & His Junta? And how do you justify our O.B. selectmen banning their townsfolk from even expressing an opinion on this thing? You know I love you, my friend, but your argument has an odd clicking of jack-boots about it. Come on, join the party / protest on the 26th. Bring Phyllis. Bring Amos, even. He can play with Huxley.
Holly Nadler December 10, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Jeanie, thanks for your feedback. I was for the roundabout too before I saw what the thing was going to look like. Apparently there are pretty little roundabouts in France and England and maybe even in New Hampshire & Vermont. Maybe if we could just get these guys making the decision to go back to the drawing board, that would be a start?
Louise December 10, 2012 at 05:12 PM
You are so right, Susanna. but to say that the intersection doesn't have enough traffic for a light just doesn't make sense. So, there is enough traffic to put in a very expensive roundabout? I'd sure like to see that traffic study. You can do anything with numbers! Let's call for another study- in July and August. As far as safety goes, I would trust a four-way stop far more than a roundabout, where people only slow down... every man for himself!
Martha Magee December 10, 2012 at 05:56 PM
It may well be a lost cause but I agree with Holly. If the people of Martha's Vineyard SAY they DONT WANT A ROTARY, that is significant. HELLO. Striking the rotary vote from the Oak Bluffs Town Ballot was sneaky, manipulative, unjust and unAmerican. I agree with Jeannie. A protest needs to be WELrL ORGANIZED with media coverage, press, radio and TV. Its Christmas week. This is going to be a challenge. This is America. This is how it works: " A government of the people, by the people and FOR the people". POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!
steve auerbach December 10, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Who's Amos? Do you mean Toby? Since when do all Islanders get to vote on everything that goes on in every town? Where's the Island-wide vote on accessing a certain beach? Where's the Island-wide vote on how large homes can be built whose septic systems and lawns impinge on the water quality of our ponds? Democracy is not generally defined as allowing every citizen to vote on every issue. That's why we elect representatives (read: Selectmen) (and, last I looked, they were wearing Uggs and the like, not jackboots). The Selectmen didn't ban the "townsfolk" (pretty quaint word) from expressing an opinion. The Roundabout was a Special Town Meeting article last November and those citizens who took the trouble to attend the TM voted their approval(!) of the roundabout so there was no need to have a further vote on it.
Holly Nadler December 10, 2012 at 06:42 PM
I know, Steve, and mea culpa myself for not attending that meeting. But still, it looks like nearly 75% of islanders are against this. It's easier to try to block it now. Once it's done it will always be there, like the bathhouse on the O.B. Harbor. You may have moved here after it went up (also a selectmen's move), and it cut the heart out of a gorgeous unobstructed view as you rolled down New York Ave into town. I meant Toby. Don't forget I'm a little senile in the name department, Mr. Ackerman.
Beverly Bickel December 10, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Here in Long Beach, California, the powers that be also have Roundabout Madness. The things are ugly, unsafe to drive around, and everyone hates them. I do not understand why they get such good PR.
Susanna J. Sturgis December 10, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Anyone who looks at a map or drives around the island can see that what happens at the blinker intersection has regional impact. One question (of many) is why no one realized that the roundabout was a DRI, development of regional impact, until the West Tisbury BoS made a discretionary referral in spring 2011. The MVC did indeed vote twice for the roundabout. In both cases, the result was so close that it was decided by the vote of the chair, Chris Murphy. Then it turned out that since this was a state project, it didn't require a permit -- so the MVC had no jurisdiction in the first place and there was no point in appealing its decision. Last spring's non-binding referendum was on the ballot in five towns. The reason it wasn't on the OB ballot was because the BoS blocked it, or maybe "stonewalled" is the better word. They didn't want the town to express an opinion. Why? Because most likely the vote would have been between 70% and 75% against, as it was in the other five towns. There's a big difference between secret ballot and town meeting. Yes, the issue was on the ATM warrant last spring (*not* an STM warrant in November 2011). It came up near the end of the meeting and discussion was not encouraged; not to mention, people were packing up and leaving. Finally, if you think this thing is small, you haven't looked at the plans. If you're really concerned about democracy, you'll take a closer look at the roundabout's history. It's not pretty.
Louise December 10, 2012 at 08:56 PM
"through which all cars must proceed slowly and carefully," like threading camels through the eye of a needle. of course there will still be backups on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, all summer. go ahead, build it. we'll put up a plaque to those who are on the BOS in OB, so we can all know who to thank.
Louise December 10, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I met a woman from Michigan who said they have a roundabout in her town; no one takes care of the landscaping, so it is all weeds, and some people drive straight over the middle. others take a left when entering. which one of the OB Selectmen will take responsibility?
steve auerbach December 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Sorry Ms. Sturgis, but several of your assertions are off-base. The only regional impact will be to hopefully lessen traffic congestion, so that will be a plus. The Selectmen didn't stonewall anything- that's your rabble-rousing expression. The Selectmen gave those attending the Town Meeting the opportunity, in a fully democratic way, to vote to put it on the ballot, or not. I personally thought it was going to be contentious, but it was not. We voted overwhelmingly to pass the roundabout article the way it was without the need for it to go on the ballot. Discussion may not have been encouraged, but neither was it discouraged. If so many townspeople were as fervently against it as you say, they would have made a big stink, but they did not. And, it's my opinion that the votes in the other towns were entirely the result of all the needless hoo-hah that you (and a few others) have made about it. That's all I have to say. You all have fun smacking it around.
Holly Nadler December 10, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Steve, come join us on our side. Rabble-rowsers and hoo-hah-ers have more fun. And there's gonna be eggnog at the Boxing Day Party Protest -- that's the advantage of staging anything the day after Christmas. Bring Toby! And Amos!
Ellen OBrien December 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM
How much does a traffic light cost for God's sake?
Holly Nadler December 11, 2012 at 12:59 PM
I know, Ellen, the low cost of a traffic light seems to call to us as a solution. But the cost that's SCREAMING for the attention of the selectmen is the 1.6 million or more the state will pay for this rotary. These officers are dazzled by the money, I believe, and can't see that what we're getting for it is an utterly suburban, UN-Vineyard blob of concrete -- the sort of construction we come to the island to get away from.
Holly Nadler December 11, 2012 at 01:30 PM
TOO MANY CARS AT THE BLINKING LIGHTS IN AUGUST? LET US FIGHT THIS AT THE ROOT-CAUSE: TOO MANY CARS ON ISLAND IN AUGUST. LET'S WORK ON LIMITING CARS COMING TO THE ISLAND ON THE STEAMSHIP. FOR EXAMPLE, ONE SET OF WHEELS PER HOUSE RENTAL. AND HOW ABOUT A VOLUNTEER PROGRAM FOR SUMMER FOLKS TO LIMIT THEIR TIME HERE TO ONE CAR PER HOUSEHOLD ALSO? PERHAPS ISLAND BUSINESSES COULD GIVE DISCOUNTS TO PEOPLE WHO DO THAT.
Susanna J. Sturgis December 11, 2012 at 02:58 PM
This past summer I went through the blinker intersection many times. Whenever I was behind more than three or four cars, I kept track of how long it took me to get through the intersection. The absolute longest was 12 minutes. On that occasion, the traffic was backed up to Sea Glen -- and that's about as backed up as it ever gets. Short version is that I don't believe the traffic problem is serious enough to justify an overhaul of the landscape. Once the safety issue was pretty well dismissed, roundabout proponents started claiming that the roundabout would reduce emissions from all those idling cars -- trying to appeal to the environmentalist vote, perhaps? But NO studies were done to test this claim. IOW, "too many cars" looks like a red herring to me, a "problem" that isn't worth the time spent trying to solve it.
Susanna J. Sturgis December 11, 2012 at 03:06 PM
As an OB elected official, and one who may or may not have political ambitions in town, Steve Auerbach may feel obligated to toe the party line. Having attended all those MVC meetings and hearings, I have to admire town officials for maintaining such a united front behind their selectmen. Unfortunately, as so often happens in cases like this, common sense and logic go by the wayside and the citizenry are not well served. Swallow too many ill-conceived ideas before breakfast and one may have indigestion by lunchtime.
Holly Nadler December 11, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I want to impart this thought into our selectmen's thought processes: So far the safety record from the current four-way stop has been impeccable, and why wouldn't it be? Everyone must stop and proceed with caution. Roundabout accidents, on the contrary, are high. So, town officials: Let the first death from our ill-conceived roundabout be on your heads.
Sam Feldman December 11, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I 'll be off island on the 26th. What can I do to support your initiative ?
Martha Magee December 11, 2012 at 03:58 PM
As Holly mentioned, roundabouts work very well in England. They can be confusing to foreigners if you're not familiar with it, not to mention the driving on the other side bit. The Brits are very good at protocol; this includes the rules of the road. Over here at Bourne Rotary, not so much. The funny part to me is the apparent stubborness trumps common sense piece. A roundabout just doesnt belong on MV. "Positive libido for the ugly" - Mencken got THAT right! A stoplight with an off-switch is most practical solution. Duh!
Holly Nadler December 11, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Sam, you're the best! I'm trying to set up an interview with the Gazette about the protest and continuing opposition of Vineyarders to this plan. Are you interested in jumping in on this interview, as someone who knows how stuff is done?
Martha Magee December 11, 2012 at 04:01 PM
" I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker. The example of great and pure individuals is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus or Ghandi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?" "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." "Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it." ~ ALBERT EINSTEIN
Susanna J. Sturgis December 11, 2012 at 04:20 PM
If "impeccable" means "no fatalities," I believe you're right. There have, however, been accidents, some serious. I know of one where a car was totaled. In general, what accidents happen at a four-way stop are minor because everyone's going slowly. But people do run stop signs at speed, and when they do, serious damage and injury are possible. Not sure what your source is for "roundabout accidents are high." I don't think it's true.
Sara Crafts December 11, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Louise, there's a sorry history of us in OB trying to tell our selectmen ... they refused to allow the ballot question, and let us know of their refusal too late to let us get sufficient signatures to force the issue last spring. It was on the warrant at the Town Meeting (one of the last articles), and by the time it was put to a vote, people were putting on their coats. A few folks voted NO, but we were down to less than 100 people at that point. But sadly, that vote is flaunted by the selectmen as evidence that "the people" of OB want the roundabout. It's clearly not OB's issue, it's the Island's issue. It could be argued OB will be least affected (except in its pocketbook!).
Trina Mascott December 11, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I can tell you that as a very good and experienced driver, no matter where I’ve been in the world, when I come upon one of those rotaries I am filled with dread. As a matter of fact when I drove for the first time to see my daughter Cynthia in Lancaster, California a couple of months ago, I was merrily going along on the right road and saw a sign, “Lancaster 3 miles."  Then I came to a rotary/roundabout and all of the roads had signs with names of towns I never heard of!  So I took the one that seemed in the right direction but it was a 2-lane road with tall corn stalks on either side and for miles had no cross streets or driveways where I could get directions.  Well, finally there was a driveway to a farm and I found a human who told me I’d gone many miles out of the way.  So instead of being 3 miles from Lancaster I was over 20 miles away.  So I assure you that if I’m driving in MV on Barnes Road and come to a rotary/roundabout, I’ll wind up on Nantucket for sure! Trina Mascott
Trina Mascott December 11, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I can tell you that as a very good and experienced driver, no matter where I’ve been in the world, when I come upon one of those rotaries I am filled with dread. As a matter of fact when I drove for the first time to see my daughter Cynthia in Lancaster, California a couple of months ago, I was merrily going along on the right road and saw a sign, “Lancaster 3 miles."  Then I came to a rotary/roundabout and all of the roads had signs with names of towns I never heard of!  So I took the one that seemed in the right direction but it was a 2-lane road with tall corn stalks on either side and for miles had no cross streets or driveways where I could get directions.  Well, finally there was a driveway to a farm and I found a human who told me I’d gone many miles out of the way.  So instead of being 3 miles from Lancaster I was over 20 miles away.  So I assure you that if I’m driving in MV on Barnes Road and come to a rotary/roundabout, I’ll wind up on Nantucket for sure! Trina Mascott
Ashley Gilbert December 12, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Well, Trina...I don't know if you'll end up on Nantucket....but perhaps in Oak Bluffs, or toward the airport instead of Vineyard Haven! lol. Holly, as year-rounders living in Edgartown and owning a store in Vineyard Haven, my husband Paul and I totally agree with you. We will try to be at the protest on the 26th with our two girls and labradoodle Delilah.
Ashley Gilbert December 12, 2012 at 03:24 AM
BTW, I am what I would like to call a "good" driver. I have never gotten a ticket, or gotten into an accident. The Borne rotary scares me to death! I hate it. Even though I have driven through it a million times, every time is the worst! What makes it worse for me is that my Mother had stopped off at what we call "lobster man" , the nice man who owns the seafood place with a lighthouse building. My Mother didn't close her tailgate all the way and upon going around the Bourne rotary lost a pair of Manolo Blanik shoes (in the box), a new $500. jacket from a store in Edgartown and a vintage hat and hat pin from Claudia in Edgartown (worth about $700. ). She was past the bridge when she discovered the open latch. Going back, nothing was there. It had vanished. Too funny. I told her she shouldn't have bought it in the first place. Anyway, rotary's, roundabouts, whatever, they don't belong on the Vineyard.
Bloodyrue Andrue December 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Who is paying for the maintenance and electricity for all the added lighting when it is done? Plowing it ought to be fun to see.
Holly Nadler December 12, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Ashley, would love to see you at the protest on the 26th and, even if you can't come, definitely send your labradoodle Deliah by taxi -- I love that breed and I'll take good care of her!

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