The Steamship Authority came under fire last fall and early winter for being the source of problems with traffic in Woods Hole and on Woods Hole Road. The suspicion was, and probably still is among a few, that the authority is positioning itself to move even more cars and trucks by redesigning its terminal and slips in Woods Hole.
No one can deny the existence of “boat traffic” and that it is bothersome and noisy. And, unless Woods Hole is circumvented by a boat route to New Bedford, traffic associated with the ferries will likely increase. But that has everything to do with Martha’s Vineyard and little to do with the Steamship Authority; the authority was established to serve the island and it does that well.
Meanwhile, the Town of Falmouth receives a substantial amount of money in the way of fees collected from travelers to the island in the way of a 50 cent embarkation fee. Last year Falmouth received $435,057. A pretty good chunk of change.
The collected fees come to the town each year and Town Meeting votes to appropriate the money for public safety expenses. This is done as the law, passed in 2003, provides.
But is the money used as the law was intended?
Section 129d of Chapter 46 of the acts of 2003 states that any town that receives embarkation fees shall appropriate the money “for the purpose of mitigating the impacts of ferry service on said city or town.”
That doesn’t happen in Falmouth; the money for all intents and purposes goes into the general fund to help pay for public safety.
It’s not only the Steamship Authority that is helping Falmouth out with its budget; the Island Queen also must collect embarkation fees and turn them over to the town. This Falmouth business that is owned by Falmouth residents is owed a hearty thank-you from the community.
Meanwhile the traffic problems persist.
We don’t know what can be done about it. We do know, though, that there is over $400,000 a year that could be put to a solution. In deference to the Steamship Authority and the Island Queen—and particularly to the residents of Woods Hole—the town could take a stab at mitigating the impacts of the ferry services.