Martha’s Vineyard Transportation Improvement Program sets funding priorities

The document identifies Island highway, bridge, and transit projects first in line for Federal and State funds.

The Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

Top priority projects named in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) unanimously approved on July 10 include the construction, now underway, of a new Lagoon Pond drawbridge; resurfacing of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road; improvements to Beach Road; and a focus on Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) services, equipment, and facilities.

“The TIP looks at funding we have available from Federal and state sources, sets priorities of what projects to do, and fills in transportation system gaps,” MVC staff transportation planner Priscilla Leclerc told the MVC commissioners in her presentation to the MVC.

The TIP identifies road, transit, and multimodal projects that are priorities within estimated available federal funding for Martha’s Vineyard for Federal fiscal years 2015-2018 (FFY15-FFY18), which run from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2018.

According to the Martha’s Vineyard TIP, the total regional Federal funding targets for the two highway projects, with a state match included, are $492,158 in FFY15, and $541,128 in FFY16-18.

Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road

The cost of resurfacing 6.5 miles of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road is estimated at $1,033,286. The original plan was to resurface 6.5 miles, using an in-house MassDOT design. However, Ms. Leclerc said the project is still under discussion, and if other adjustments to the road are added, it may not be possible to resurface all 6.5 miles.

Although there is some wiggle-room in the TIP for making changes, Ms. Leclerc told the MVC that the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road project, slated for the first year of the TIP, would have to be ready to be advertised by Christmas or be replaced by another.

“If we don’t have a project to move forward, we lose the funding,” she explained.

“We are working to identify a couple of easier projects that could be substituted,” MVC executive director Mark London added. “We would have to do a modification in the fall.”

“If the scope of the project changes, the cost changes,” Ms. Leclerc said in a phone conversation with The Times Tuesday. “We will probably be holding a public meeting on that project in early fall. It ties into the scenic roads committee’s discussions about Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road since NSTAR’s larger utility poles went up.”

Beach Road

Improvements to Beach Road from the Winds Up watersports shop to Five Corners are scheduled for FFY16 and FFY17, at an estimated cost of $2,162,256. In addition to the Island’s target funds for those two years, which total $1,082,256, the project qualifies for an additional $1,080,000 from the state’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds because it will improve bicycle and pedestrian access.

Local town and Island officials are working with MassDOT on a plan to transform what is now a jumbled collection of sidewalks, shoulders, utility infrastructure, and a bike path that ends abruptly, into a smooth passageway for motorists, bicyclists, and walkers.

“The Beach Road project started as an idea to extend the shared use path [SUP] for bicyclists and pedestrians from where it ends now, to at least the corner of Tisbury Marketplace,” Ms. Leclerc told The Times. “When we met with representatives from MassDOT, they suggested bringing it right down to Five Corners because that section is in rough shape and should also be done.”

The project evolved to include other improvements based on public comment at a meeting in May, she said, and there will be another public meeting to discuss it in September.

At the Tisbury selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, two MassDOT representatives and engineer John Diaz of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., discussed three conceptual options for the road’s design and asked for comments from town officials, planning board members, MVC staff, and the public in attendance. MassDOT project manager Thomas Currier said another public information meeting will be held in early fall for further discussion and to seek the town’s preference on which option to advance to a 25 percent design submission.

VTA and Lagoon Pond drawbridge

Under TIP transit programming, planned expenditures for the VTA include funds for operations, bus or van purchases, rehab vans and buses, and equipment or facility rehab and renovations, estimated at $3.57 million for FFY15, $3.35 million for FFY16, $3 million for FFY17, and $2.4 million for FFY18.

In addition to being a TIP priority for Martha’s Vineyard, the Lagoon Pond drawbridge replacement is listed on the state’s bridge project list for the Federal Aid Bridge Program for the next three years, with funds coming from the National Highway Performance Program.

The cost of its multi-year construction, which is already underway, is estimated at $38,277,479 over the next three federal fiscal years. About $7 million in Federal and State bridge funds, over the Island’s target funds, will be spent in FFY15, $15.4 million in FFY16, and $1.6 million in FFY17.

The new bridge, estimated to cost $43.7 million, will be built adjacent to the existing temporary bridge, which will stay in use until the new bridge and approach roadways are realigned and able to accept traffic. Despite a construction slowdown earlier this year to protect the spawning and juvenile development of winter flounder and shellfish, the bridge’s construction is on schedule to be completed in July 2016.

The TIP also includes a list of regional priorities in need of funding on Martha’s Vineyard selected by the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC), a citizen advisory group that serves as a forum to discuss transportation issues and that advises the MVC.

“We don’t have the funding, but should there be a windfall somewhere or a benefactor that wants to donate, these are the projects we’d like done,” Ms. Leclerc told The Times.

The list includes new shared use paths on Beach Road from the drawbridge to Eastville Avenue, County Road to Sunset Lake, Sea View Avenue to Waban Park, and a down-Island/up-Island link from Tisbury to West Tisbury. A Tisbury connector road between State and Edgartown-Vineyard roads is also on the list, along with a park and ride lot in Oak Bluffs.

The TIP process

The MVC prepared the 103-page document in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), and Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority (VTA).

The MVC serves as 1 of 13 regional planning agencies in Massachusetts, of which 10 are federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), the document’s introduction explains. Although Martha’s Vineyard does not meet the Federal criteria for an MPO, a minimum population of 50,000 residents in an urbanized area, Governor Deval Patrick designated the MVC as an MPO in the 1970’s. As such, the MVC receives funds from MassDOT for transportation planning on the Vineyard.

The Martha’s Vineyard MPO members include the MassDOT secretary, MassDOT Highway Division Administrator, MVC chairman, and VTA chairman, who serve as the decision-making body regarding the Island’s transportation planning goals, projects, priorities, and funding.

In keeping with federal transportation planning regulations, the MVC established a citizen advisory group, the Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee (JTC), to serve as a forum to discuss transportation issues and to advise the decision-making body.

The JTC voting members include appointed representatives from the six Island towns and Dukes County. Non-voting members include representatives from the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), MassDOT, the Steamship Authority, VTA and Martha’s Vineyard Airport, and the MVC staff.

TIP projects are proposed by the JTC members, who then evaluate them in terms of priority criteria, consider public input and available funds, and select the ones for inclusion in the TIP for the next four years.

After the Martha’s Vineyard TIP is approved, it is combined with the 12 other regional TIPs in Massachusetts into the State Transportation Improvement Program for Federal review. Once approved, projects under the first TIP year, 2015, may move forward on October 1, 2014.