Senator Moran’s proposed legislation that would require at least one mainland representative to join the island representatives in any vote and would require a minimum of 50 percent of the weighted vote to approve Authority policy makes sense. Unfortunately, it is running into stiff headwinds on and off the islands. But she is right that it is time for a change; the current system that gives the islands a combined 70 percent vote is outdated and unfair.
The enabling act that created the Steamship Authority in 1960 made sense. Martha’s Vineyard was a group of very small towns, with a total population of about 5,000. The Authority was very much a lifeline back then and ensured transportation of goods through the slow winter months.
It’s not that residents of Woods Hole didn’t complain; they did. In fact, complaints about traffic from the boats go back to the 1930s. It is all relative. But it was obvious that Woods Hole should be a terminus for transport to the islands.
A lot has changed since those days. The Vineyard has four times the population today and hundreds of thousands of summer visitors. It is a very busy place.
Quite simply, the Vineyard has outgrown Woods Hole. It has come to the point that it is too much to ask of Woods Hole, and of Falmouth, to absorb the traffic that is increasing by the year without any prospect of change.
Sen. Moran’s legislation would not likely result in radical change in itself. It certainly would not threaten Martha’s Vineyard’s lifeline to the mainland. It certainly isn’t going to spell disaster for the islands. To suggest such a thing is nothing but hyperbole.
Traffic is the greatest concern in Falmouth and the solution would be to route freight traffic through New Bedford instead of Woods Hole. Vineyard residents are opposed to that, and understandably, because it would result in a higher cost of living there.
In order for freight to be routed through New Bedford, the Nantucket representative would have to vote for it. We don’t see that happening.
But Sen. Moran’s proposed amendment to the enabling act might give Falmouth more clout in putting a stop to early freight boats. Trucks begin loading for the 5:30 AM trip to the Vineyard at 5 and travel down Woods Hole Road earlier than that. It really is too much to ask residents to put up with noise that early in the morning, all for the convenience of island residents.
We applaud Sen. Moran for coming forward and putting herself on the line with this legislation. It might not be the final solution for Falmouth, but it’s a step in the right direction.