Not Dead Yet: Four Corners Roundabout Funding Preserved By Select Board

Jason Graziadei •

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The potential layout of the proposed roundabout at the high school intersection.

The proposed roundabout at the high school is not dead yet.

Despite the initiative being dormant for four years and a recent request from the town administration to reallocate $100,000 in existing funding for the design of the roundabout, the Select Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to preserve the money and, potentially, resurrect the project. 

During last night's joint meeting with the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission, the members of the Select Board took no action on the town administration's request. They asked transportation program manager Mike Burns to investigate the town's prior contract with consultant VHB that supposed to deliver a 25 percent design submission - including a preliminary cost estimate - but never completed the work.

While acknowledging there are strong feelings both for and against the proposed roundabout and that the $100,000 appropriation from the 2018 Town Meeting was relatively small considering what the roundabout could eventually cost, town officials appeared unwilling to let the project go.

"Roundabouts work," Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission member Nat Lowell said. "But this community takes time to absorb things that they originally don’t want, like (the improvements to) First Way. There was a partial nuclear-powered protest to stop that for 20 years and now everyone loves it and no one remembers the fight...That roundabout at the school should happen."

Lowell emphasized the work that had been done by former planning director Andrew Vorce, who negotiated concessions with Nantucket Cottage Hospital during the construction of its new facility that could facilitate the construction of a roundabout at the edge of its campus.

"I don’t want these things to be dropped like it never happened," Lowell said.

The so-called "Four Corners roundabout" would attempt to alleviate traffic at one of the most congested intersections on Nantucket - where Surfside Road, Sparks Avenue, Prospect Street, and Atlantic Avenue converge near Nantucket High School. After looking at a series of potential options, including turning lanes, the Select Board approved the roundabout as the preferred alternative back in 2018. Town Meeting voters approved $109,000 toward the initial planning and design efforts that year as well.

Tuesday's discussion was prompted by a request from the town administration to Burns seeking to reallocate the $100,000 to other projects given the fact that the roundabout initiative had not advanced for several years since those initial steps were taken.

"We’d like to reappropriate it since it has been dormant for some time and not seemingly a high-priority project," town manager Libby Gibson said. "And we're not sure the resources are there to get it resurrected and there is some standing opposition to it."

While there was initial discussion about granting the town administration's request to reallocate the funding while still indicating support for the roundabout at the same time, Select Board chair Dawn Hill Holdgate ultimately proposed that the board "recommit" the funding to the project, and ask Burns to investigate the status of the town's prior contract with VHB. 

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The existing layout of the intersection.
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