FALMOUTH — Several Falmouth residents expressed frustration with the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority during a public meeting Wednesday saying they had been talking about the same nuisance issues for several years with no results.
The residents want the authority to amend its 2023 schedule, specifically a 5:30 a.m. freight service between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard. The early morning freight service has negatively affected public health, including noise and public safety factors from excessive traffic, according to a petition signed by 160 town residents.
“Falmouth is a port community, and actually as the Steamship’s largest port community, is totally disenfranchised from any decision making related to the Steamship Authority,” resident Nathaniel Trumbull said.
Trumbull, also a member of the Southeast Massachusetts Regional Transportation (SMART) Citizens Task Force, filed a public nuisance complaint with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office in January regarding excessive automobile traffic in Falmouth.
In a phone interview with the Times, he said Wednesday’s event was the sixth public hearing regarding the 5:30 a.m. freight service since the authority began the service in 2012.
Requests to cease 5:30 a.m. freight trips ignored, according to citizen complaints
“Our request has been ignored each time,” Trumbull said.
Other people who supported the request for a schedule change were Falmouth Select Board Chair Doug Brown, who spoke briefly at the hearing, and state Sen. Susan Moran, who provided written testimony.
During the hearing, Trumbull said that the early morning freight service routinely disturbs the sleep of Falmouth residents. He also spoke about the general increase in traffic in Falmouth due to authority service, including backups near Falmouth Hospital.
“Since when are commercial interests placed above public safety interests?” he said.
The state Legislature created the authority in 1960. Its purpose is to provide for “adequate transportation of persons and necessaries of life for the Islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.”
The authority now operates a boat line between the ports of Woods Hole in Falmouth, and Hyannis, to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. It employs about 750 workers during the peak season and generates annual revenue of about $100 million, according to the authority website.
At Wednesday’s hearing, speakers cited the dangers of the increasing traffic caused by authority operations.
Kristin Alexandersaid attempting to pull out of her driveway into freight truck traffic was akin to risking her life. She asked if the authority would take responsibility for the traffic, since in the past it had “washed their hands of it.”
“I would like to hear some answers,” she said.
Falmouth resident Ed Dewitt said that the authority has exceeded its purpose since most of the Authority’s services have nothing to do with “the necessaires of life.”
In response, a meeting with attorney general officials and
A representative of the attorney general’s office said that they were aware of the Falmouth residents’ concerns and have met with them.
The authority plans to prepare a report and present recommended 2023 schedules to its board. However, the authority doesn’t have a timeline for when it will complete its report, Communication Director Sean Driscoll said.
Earlier this week, a consultant’s report indicated that three of the authority’s 10 vessels will approach the end of their useful life within the next five years
The three vessels, built in the early 1980s, mostly transport freight, not passengers, officials said.