Get ready to grab your steering wheel and lean right.
Oak Bluffs selectmen gave the official go-ahead to the Island's first roundabout this week, awarding a $40,000 design contract for the traffic circle to an engineering and architecture firm in Stoneham.
The roundabout - a single-lane, downsized version of a rotary - will be built next year at the junction of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven and Barnes Roads, one of the Vineyard's most heavily trafficked intersections.
A final design for the roundabout is due by December so selectmen can tap in $330,000 of state highway funds to pay for the construction.
But Oak Bluffs taxpayers will have to foot the bill for designing the traffic circle, which selectmen believe is the safest remedy for a notoriously dangerous intersection.
Selectmen decided to hire Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. of Stoneham to spearhead the design work. Seven other firms submitted bids.
Mimi Davisson, chairman of the Oak Bluffs finance committee, urged selectmen Tuesday night to put the $40,000 spending request in front of voters at town meeting, but board chairman Roger Wey said there's no time.
"This is the board of selectmen's decision," he said. "We would lose the funding if we went to a town meeting."
Last week, traffic experts pressed selectmen to move ahead with the roundabout amid a vocal chorus of Island residents and abutters who protested the plan.
Their argument was simple: The intersection doesn't need fixing since the four-way stop signs were put up more than a year ago to replace the blinking yellow light that gave the intersection its name. The four-way stop is credited for a significant drop in the number of car accidents at the blinker, Oak Bluffs police said this summer.
Opponents of the roundabout have also questioned the cost and whether the new traffic system will accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.
Oak Bluffs selectman Kerry Scott, the board's sole critic of the roundabout option, this week continued to assail the fact that the town is shouldering the fee for design.
She urged town leaders to pressure MassHighway to absorb the cost. Selectman Richard Combra agreed, saying that while the Oak Bluffs highway department could find the money to pay for planning the roundabout, it was more desirable to see the commonwealth pay for it.
"I'm not voting to do this and let MassHighway off the hook," said Mr. Combra.
Highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr., who is the son of the selectman, said the roundabout project will not require any taking of private land by eminent domain, based on preliminary plans.
Selectmen agreed to hold a public hearing once Greenman-Pedersen completes the first stage of designs for the project sometime in December.
"Is this a no-turning-back situation?" Ms. Scott asked.
"No," replied town administrator Casey Sharpe.
Ms. Sharpe said selectmen could decide they don't like the plans, but no one suggested scrapping the roundabout idea altogether.
More than 20 people attended the selectmen's meeting last week, and not one voiced support for the roundabout project.
This week, attendance had fallen to just a trickle, but among the half-dozen people sitting in the council on aging building, the commentary remained inhospitable to the advent of a traffic circle.
"The stop signs have worked," said Linda Marinelli, a former selectman whose house sits just east of the intersection. "The amount of traffic there doesn't last more than seven minutes."
Unlike last week, selectmen engaged in no detailed discussion about the pros and cons of the roundabout.
Last week Framingham traffic planner Bill Scully gave a lengthy primer on the benefits of a roundabout. County engineer Steve Berlucchi also advocated the roundabout, telling selectmen that traffic levels on the Island will only worsen and begin to make the four-way stop obsolete.