The worst of Edgartown’s traffic problems is still months away, but a group of Northeastern University students are spending the off-season looking for a solution.
For the second year in a row, transportation students participating in professor Daniel Dulaski’s senior capstone project are facing off against a worthy opponent: Edgartown’s seasonally-congested streets and traffic patterns. Their solutions include narrowing traffic lanes and adding a shoulder, turning Cooke street into a bike-only street, and changing traffic patterns around the congested triangle area.
The five students — Salina Martin, Christopher Howard, Sarah Keenan, Douglas Halpert and Jeffrey Eisenhaur — traveled to the Vineyard for the first time Friday to present their proposals for the Upper Main street area, which includes the jail, Stop & Shop and the infamous triangle intersection between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Main street, and Beach Road that often produces backups in the summer months. As part of the project, the students take on real-world traffic problems and pose solutions. Other student groups this year are working on problems in Boston, Medway and North Attleboro. Last year, a similar group looked at lower Main street.
The Upper Main street area sees “10 weeks of gridlock and chaos for several hours out of the day,” Edgartown highway superintendent Stuart Fuller said at the meeting, which had planning board members, selectmen, business owners, the police chief, the fire chief, and residents in the audience.
Based on the group’s analysis, “traffic flow is the main problem,” Mr. Eisenhaur said, with “a lot of left turn problems coming down Upper Main.” The triangle is a huge problem as well, he said, and the group aimed to slow down traffic near Memorial Park.
The group also noted several “access points” where people can cut through parking lots, like the Trader Fred’s parking lot and the parking lot of the Stop & Shop pharmacy, with lots of people turning in and out of the street. Traffic headed toward Vineyard Haven has to take a left turn off Upper Main onto Vineyard Haven road with no stop or yield control, and “it could be a long time until they find an appropriate gap to make a left turn,” Mr. Halpert said. People heading inbound toward Edgartown have to look over their shoulders back at traffic on Beach road, and often have to wait a long time for a gap as well, he said. The preliminary proposal — the group solicited feedback and will be back in late April with final plans — was to make Vineyard Haven road one way inbound toward Edgartown, starting north of Pennywise Path, and Beach road one-way outbound between the triangle and beyond Trader Fred’s. The group also proposed closing off some access points, to limit where drivers can enter the roads. To alleviate congestion, the group proposed adding a roundabout further down on Beach Road, with a new road going through land owned by Sheriff’s Meadow and joining up with Vineyard Haven road just north of Pennywise Path.
By Stop & Shop, the group proposed realigning the roadway and narrowing lanes, making Pinehurst Way a one-way going out toward Upper Main street and lining that street up with a Stop & Shop entrance, to limit the amount of left turns on that road.
They also proposed adding a wide shoulder to allow cars to pass those waiting to turn into the Stop & Shop parking lot, and having separate sidewalks and cycle tracks.
To improve the area around Memorial Park and the intersection where cars can turn onto Cooke street to head toward Katama or West Tisbury, the group proposed eliminating cars on Cooke street altogether by turning it into a bicycle track and adding parking. They also suggested narrowing Curtis Lane so cars slow down as they enter the roadway and expanding the parking lot for Edgartown Seafood, so cars are not backing out into traffic.
The audience was not hesitant to give feedback. Planning board member Robert Sparks said he was grateful for the group, but had concerns about closing off access points and building a roundabout. “Some of the ideas are good, obviously,” he said, but expressed concern about having to go down Beach road when trying to get to the post office from Edgartown. “The roundabout seems a little bit more than is necessary.”
The students pointed out it might be better to drive a little bit further than to wait in stop-and-go traffic.
Mr. Fuller noted that when the Oak Bluffs roundabout is completed, a quicker traffic flow will be dumped into Edgartown.
“Maybe when you come back . . . you can comment on how that might impact our area now,” he said.