Woods Hole residents once again turned out in large numbers at the Steamship Authority’s meeting at Falmouth High School last week to object, among other things, to the early freight boat trips to the island. They can hardly be blamed. The first boat leaves at 5:30 AM, but the noise starts earlier as trucks drive down Woods Hole Road and back up at the terminal with backup alarms beeping loudly. It is not reasonable to ask the residents to put up with that noise so early in the morning. It would be unreasonable if the boats left an hour later.
But what is the authority to do? There is equal pressure from the island to get freight moving as early as possible. The island’s infrastructure and perennial traffic problems make travel at civilized hours very difficult. As one trucker put it last week: “The streets on Martha’s Vineyard are not made for our 53-foot trucks.”
That is indeed a problem, but it shouldn’t be a problem for the residents of Woods Hole.
The obvious solution is to route freight through New Bedford. No one on the island that we know of is in favor of that; goods on the island are already more expensive, and no one wants the cost of living to edge even higher.
Another solution might reside in infrastructure improvements on the island. But that is not likely to happen. Islanders are steadfast in their resistance to changing that. Plans for a roundabout on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road created a firestorm that made the reaction to a proposed needle exchange in East Falmouth look like business as usual. The vitriol in the argument was astounding.
A number of years ago in a referendum vote, a majority in all five towns registered their preference for fewer cars on the island. Nothing came of it.
The Steamship Authority should be lauded for holding a number of public meetings over the past months, but there is only so much the authority can do. The Vineyard representative, despite holding 35 percent of the vote, is likely not eager to push for change either way, given the strong and conflicting feelings of islanders.
Meanwhile, a number of residents of Woods Hole have to put up with noise in the early hours of the morning. It would be good if island residents could feel a little of that pain.