With long lines, a miserable parking situation, and the uncertainty of schedules in bad weather, getting to Nantucket by ferry has always proved a pain for those who don't call the island home. They had no choice unless they traveled by private boat or flew.
That is about to change. A bill permitting full public access to Nantucket via the lightly-used Kennedy Tunnel has been placed on the Governor's desk with every indication he will sign it. Opening the tunnel to all—not just island residents—could take place as early as May .
Tourists and non-residents are vital to Nantucket's economy and despite the determined resistance of the island's year-round residents since the tunnel was opened in 1984, times have changed. Economic conditions have driven momentum in favor of public access.
Proponents of public access made a persuasive case. With a per-vehicle toll of $110 round-trip and anticipated gains in the island's economy of as much as 20% as well as a lengthened tourist season, it didn't meet much resistance. The commonwealth's budget is desperately in need of new revenue sources, and this seems an obvious solution with broad statewide support.
While this signals a significant gain for island tourism, one other similar restricted access tunnel remains in the state: the Cape Cod Canal Tunnel between the Cape and the mainland which is open only to Cape Residents. Non-Residents can only access the Cape via the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges, two aging structures which traverse the canal and pose a traffic nightmare for visitors, especially during the summer tourist season. There is a bill in committee which will open that tunnel to public access as well but it is being held up by Representative Bangs Hallet, a Cape native from Yarmouth Port who has vowed to keep it from coming to a vote "over my dead body." Millions of Cape visitors can only hope.
A planned tunnel to Martha's Vineyard, proposed years ago, was immediately killed on grounds that it would pose unfair competition with the ferry service. However it is rumored the real reason was the entrance infrastructure would have interfered with views from the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. Whether or not that is true, there were serious cost concerns following the billions in historic cost overruns associated with completing the Big Dig in Boston at the time.
Happy April 1st,