After years of anticipation and debate, the first cars made their way through the Oak Bluffs roundabout this week.
The roundabout at the intersection of Barnes Road and Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road became operational Monday. Construction on the new traffic configuration began this spring, in the face of disapproval from five of the six Island towns. (Each town except for Oak Bluffs voted against the project in nonbinding referendums last spring.) Oak Bluffs, where the intersection is located, has forged ahead with the project as a solution to traffic back-ups. The state Department of Transportation is building the project.
Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. told the town selectmen Monday that the first layer of asphalt is in place, though he said some tires might hit dirt. He said Monday was probably the worst day of construction at the site.
“I went yesterday twice, I went right straight through,” selectman Walter Vail said.
This week, orange traffic cones were guiding traffic in lieu of a traffic circle.
Mr. Combra told the Gazette last week that the first two layers of asphalt will be installed this spring, and work is scheduled to stop during the summer under a state policy for the Cape and Islands. Construction will finish in the fall.
Mr. Combra told the selectmen this week there was a possibility that the entire project could be completed this spring, though he said it would push the work into late June. “I’m not sure if that’s wise or not,” he said. The selectmen had a similar reaction to work continuing into the summer, saying they would prefer work to resume in the fall.
The roundabout replaces what were the only traffic lights on the Island, two blinking lights. The lights are now being stored at the highway department.
“I’ve had a request for those lights,” selectman Gregory Coogan said, saying that organizers for the Possible Dreams auction, the yearly fundraiser for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, has expressed interest in them.
Mr. Combra said one of the lights was damaged about two years ago, while another was an “antique historic blinking light.” He said he could talk to the police department and the roads committee about donating the historic light. He also said that a light could be installed at the end of County Road near Jardin Mahoney, where he said there have been accidents and fatalities. “It’s a thought,” he said.
Police chief Erik Blake told selectmen that the roundabout has already passed a major test, with the news relayed to him from the officer doing traffic detail at the roundabout. “You’ll never believe it,” he said. “The largest 18-wheeler legally allowed on the road went through there with absolutely no problem today.”