T he proposed roundabout has generated strong feelings as well as unwarranted accusations. The project does not warrant so much negative energy, as there will be little impact on the Vineyard, whether or not it is built at this time.

While the roundabout has been developing for almost a decade, it is only in the last year that it has become so controversial. The design of the project has been moving ahead in accordance with Mass Highway’s standard procedures, and recently reached the so-called 25 per cent public hearing process. It was after this public hearing that the project was referred to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, with the understandable claim that it had a regional impact. And the commission’s review and decision to approve the project has generated the extremely strong opinions and words.

Proponents of the project are concerned about the traffic delays that occur, and the potential loss of available funding if the project is not built now.

While there are substantial delays during the summer, these occurrences are relatively infrequent and the extent of the backups are not intolerable to most of us, particularly as compared with such locations as Five Corners. Those who provide emergency services are understandably concerned, and see substantial benefits in any improvements to the intersection.

Traffic will increase and, inevitably, conditions will worsen in the coming years. Project proponents, therefore, are correct that some improvements will be required. Depending on economic and other conditions, it may be five, 10 or 15 years before the delays become much more frequent and backups reach intolerable levels. There is no question, however, that there will be a need for some improvements sometime in the future. But they are not absolutely essential now.

The fear that funding will not be available when these improvements need to be made is probably unwarranted. Mass Highway has a small pot of federal and state money available every year for projects in Dukes County. The Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee is responsible for identifying projects that are eligible for this funding. Unless there is some other urgent eligible project, these funds are likely to be available when needed for a future improvement at the blinker intersection.

Opponents of the roundabout express concerns about the impacts at the end of the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road, the safety of the project, drivers’ problems due to unfamiliarity with the design, and the impacts the project might have on the Vineyard’s culture.

The concerns about the traffic impacts in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown are greatly overblown. The impacts, if noticeable, will be substantially less than existed a few years ago, when there was a two-way stop on Barnes Road permitting Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road traffic to go through the intersection without stopping. It should be noted that the concerns about these impacts would apply to any improvement to the existing intersection, not just the roundabout.

Regarding safety, the existing records of similar installations and the unemotional opinions of experts clearly demonstrate that the roundabout is safer for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles than the existing four-way stop. It is understandable that people are concerned about safety; however, many of the opinions expressed are reminiscent of the denials that some people have to the concept of global warming.

As for the issue of unfamiliarity with roundabouts, again, the records at other installation have indicated that this is not a problem. One enters the single-lane roundabout in the same way as any other location where one has to yield to existing traffic in the roadway ahead.

There is legitimate concern about the roundabout’s impact on the surrounding rural landscape. The roundabout’s roadway configuration virtually fits into the area of the existing intersection. However, the project size is increased by the inclusion of formalized bus stops and accompanying sidewalk areas to meet Mass Highway’s standards. Again, these additions are not required by the roundabout, but would be a part of any Mass Highway modification to the intersection. I would hope that we could work with Mass Highway and the VTA to minimize these impacts. With proper landscaping, the small roundabout, which is similar in size to a residential circular driveway, should not affect the rural character of the area.

Realistically considering the advantages and disadvantages of the roundabout, it would not be the end of the world if it did not proceed at this time. Nor would it be the end of the world if it goes ahead.

But the project does not warrant the emotional responses that have been expressed. Of even more concern are the personal attacks that the project has generated. All the officials involved, whichever way they voted, have done so because of what they think is best for the Vineyard. None of them has anything to gain or lose because of the outcome. Similarly, the staff of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission are doing their jobs as professionals and do not deserve the vitriolic criticism that has been leveled at them.

Let’s look at the pluses and minuses of the roundabout in a more rational way. And please, let’s avoid any more personal attacks.

Dan Greenbaum is a retired transportation consultant who lives in Chilmark and contributes occasional pieces to the Gazette.