Tisbury left ‘in the dark’ as Beach Road project nears next design phase

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The Tisbury planning board is looking for a progress report on the Beach Road project. — Photo courtesy of Tisbury Planning Board

The Beach Road design review committee is requesting better communication with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) regarding the $2.4 million state and federally funded project. The work, which will change the half-mile from Five Corners to the seawall past R.M. Packer Co. Construction, is expected to begin in spring 2018.

In October 2015 the Tisbury board of selectmen (BOS) opted for a so-called “hybrid-hybrid” plan that included a shared-use path that crossed Beach Road rather than a “symmetrical” plan that would have had separate bicycle and pedestrian paths on both sides of the road. The debate over the design plan caused the town to miss the deadline for the project to be included in the budget for the 2017 fiscal year.

The Beach Road design committee was created in September 2016 by a group of town representatives: selectman chairman Melinda Loberg, town administrator Jay Grande, Department of Public Works (DPW) director Ray Tattersall, a member of the planning board, and Tisbury Water Works superintendent Paul Wohler.

The aim of the committee has been to address the issues and concerns of the project as the plan progresses to a 75 percent design (before which all permits must be submitted to all involved agencies), which MassDOT said they’d accomplish by the end of the year. But as that deadline rapidly approaches, the committee does not know where they stand with the state. Tisbury selectmen chairman Melinda Loberg, who is on the Beach Road committee, said the town has sent requests to the department, but they are unsure how those requests were received. “We’re kind of in the dark,” Ms. Loberg told The Times on Thursday.

Tisbury selectmen and the planning board sent a letter to MassDOT after the state held a public hearing in September in Tisbury regarding the 25-percent design of the project. The letter that followed the hearing highlighted an extensive list of issues with the design, as well as requests that included wider sidewalks and a better drainage system for storm water.

Other issues involved the location of utility poles, curb-cut widths where the sidewalk meets the pavement, the width of the shared-use path, what kind of landscaping would be done, and the inconsistent speed limits on the half-mile stretch of road; selectmen requested the limit be lowered to 20 miles per hour and made uniform. They also wanted to ensure a crosswalk would remain in front of the Net Result.

At the hearing in September, Tisbury selectmen requested better dialogue between the state and the town regarding the ongoing design of the project, but Ms. Loberg said that has yet to happen. She said that town administrator Jay Grande has been in touch with MassDOT, but no formal communication has taken place.

“We really don’t know if they’re receptive to the ideas we shared with them, or whether they’re being incorporated,” she said.

Ms. Loberg said that MassDOT was nearing completion with the 75 percent design phase and that the committee has requested communication with MassDOT before the design phase is complete. She anticipated that a meeting would likely take place off-Island to see where the project stands.