Martha's Vineyard Commission pushes bike path expansion down-Island towns
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) is at work on plans to extend the Island's bike path network. The MVC has retained consulting firm Greenman-Pedersen Inc. (GPI) to assess the feasibility of extending shared use paths (SUPs), or bike paths, in the down-Island towns.
At present, there are 37 miles of SUPs on the Vineyard. Seven remaining gaps limit cyclists and pedestrians from advancing safely through the downtown areas of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown, and between existing roadside paths and the paths in the State Forest.
Map illustrates missing segments in the Vineyard's current 37-mile bike path network. Courtesy of the Martha's Vineyard Commission
MVC executive director Mark London said that the purpose of the study is to examine where changes need to be made in the bike paths network, and to allow officials in each of the down-Island towns to arrange the projects in terms of viability and cost.
"We are looking to improve the off-road facilities, improve safety, and make it easier to use bikes on the Island," he said. "Currently, the problem with the bike path is that there are many locations where it starts and stops, and that leads to dangerous situations."
Mr. London said that off-road transportation projects are particularly costly, because of specific width and alignment regulations, and these obstacles are further complicated by the Vineyard's narrow roadways and protected areas.
"In some cases, it's basically up to the towns," Mr. London said. "We are working in support of them."
For this particular project, the MVC is collaborating with the Martha's Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee (JTC), which includes representatives from each of the Island towns and is financed by federal and state money. The JTC selects projects for transportation funding, but only a limited number of Island transportation projects are selected each year.
According to Mr. London, the JTC has already approved bike path expansion in downtown Oak Bluffs, from the Steamship Authority (SSA) terminal to Nancy's Restaurant. That work is to begin this fall and cost more than $1 million to complete.
In a telephone conversation with The Times, MVC senior planner Bill Veno said the bike path is going to be a real improvement to the busy streets of downtown Oak Bluffs. "It's going to be quite a change, and should actually even help to eliminate some traffic," he said.
Mr. Veno explained the process by which the JTC develops its slate of projects. He said proposed projects are publicly advertised to allow residents enough time to review the terms of a new transportation project before final decisions are made. "There will be a month-long timeframe for public comment [on the project], and this occurs before any alterations make it onto the transportation improvement plan (TIP)," he said. "A project may need more funding, and most need more engineering work, once the volume of users and safety are evaluated."
The JTC last met July 8 and no changes were made to their transportation agenda as a result of the bike paths study, according to Mr. Veno. However, he said that the MVC plans to continue promoting additional bike path improvement projects.
The next step, Mr. Veno said, is getting the towns to focus on the areas that need improvement the most. Mr. Veno acknowledged that the entire project will take years to complete. "Next, we will go in front of the planning boards in Edgartown and Tisbury and inform them of the various options and alternatives in bike path routes," he said. "Even among the seven missing segments, some have multiple segments within them. Evaluation and prioritization is the key now."