Construction began Monday on the first six permanent traffic counters throughout the Island, providing access to new data on both seasonal and year-round driver numbers.

The $139,000 federally-funded project is part of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s Islandwide transportation improvement plans, according to commission special projects manager Dan Doyle. Once installed, the counters will be able to track directional traffic at the six sites, as well as the weight and types of vehicles traversing the roadways. Construction will take seven to 10 days.

Map shows locations where traffic counters will be installed. — Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Commission

“We’ve been planning it for 18 to 24 months,” Mr. Doyle said. “But it really kind of picked up steam in the past year.”

Crews from Weymouth plan to make small incisions in the road to install the counters, which will automatically register electric pulses every time a vehicle passes over them. Data from the counters will then be wirelessly transmitted from control boxes on the side of the road and made accessible to the commission. Mr. Doyle said while the raw data would be posted for public viewing, the commission would also create charts to make the numbers more digestible for Islanders.

The six sites were chosen by the Island Joint Transportation Committee and are intended to represent both year-round and seasonal traffic hotspots. For instance, Mr. Doyle felt the locations near Morning Glory Farm on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, the Chilmark town line on South Road and the Big Bridge on Beach Road would have large seasonal fluctuations. He felt locations on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road near the refuse district as well as counters on State Road in West Tisbury and near Felix Neck on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road would have more year-round traffic.

“We thought it was more important to look at some of our more vulnerable roads that might be roughed up from sea level rise, as well as understand which of these roads have more year-round consistent traffic,” Mr. Doyle said. “And then figure out which ones are subject to the most extremes, so we can really pin that narrative of seasonal demand.”

Although the commission installs seasonal, temporary traffic counters every year, Mr. Doyle said those only represent a snapshot rather than a more holistic view of the year-round traffic situation on the Island. The counters would also help supplement data from the Steamship Authority, which provides vehicle numbers but does not help quantify their whereabouts.

“The Steamship Authority numbers only account for part of the picture. This is part of the bigger picture,” Mr. Doyle said. “I think it will be really useful to supplement the stuff we see with our own eyes.”

Ultimately, Mr. Doyle said, the goal of the permanent counters was to help collect data for future infrastructure projects and grants throughout the Island, as well as pinpoint the quantitative difference between seasonal and year-round traffic. He said that it was important funding for projects took into account the large spikes in summer traffic on the Vineyard.

“There’s so much anecdotal stuff about traffic, and whether its worse form one year to the next,” Mr. Doyle said. “At some point we need to remove the subjectivity of that and have some clean data to stand on.”