The Steamship Authority board of governors on Tuesday, July 21, postponed voting on the summer 2021 Martha’s Vineyard route schedule until its next meeting in August. The schedule includes the controversial 5:30 AM summer freight run from Woods Hole.
In May, a petition signed by 59 Falmouth residents resulted in a public hearing on the 5:30 AM ferry run, which neighbors have long opposed. The hearing drew participants from both sides of Vineyard Sound, with a sharp divide over its necessity. Woods Hole residents complained of noise from the trucks that starts around 4:45 AM on Woods Hole Road and questioned the need for such early deliveries. Island residents and business owners said it is needed to make deliveries before traffic on the island and ferry becomes congested later in the morning.
If approved by the board, it will be the ninth summer the authority runs the early boat.
The vote was postponed until August 18 because the board did not receive a report that was due before the meeting. The report is a compilation of comments from the hearing and any written testimony the authority received. Robert C. Davis, he authority’s general manager, said the board will have it before its August meeting and vote.
At the meeting Tuesday, the governors approved the noncontroversial 2021 operating schedule for Nantucket and a winter/spring schedule for the Vineyard route.
Board chairman James Malkin suggested the Vineyard measure will pass at the next meeting and that the ongoing issues dividing Woods Hole and the Vineyard can be hashed out in working groups.
“There are a number of things that are scheduled to be discussed in working groups and the task force we’ve set up, and I am sure there will be some commonality of interest between the communities, but I don’t see where further delay is really going to change the positions of the people impacted by the 5:30 boat one way or another,” he said.
Last year the authority formed both a task force and a working group. The former is to tackle long-range transportation issues, including freight. The latter is to develop measures to mitigate noise and traffic from authority operations.