Petition calls for lower Beach Road speed limit along Vineyard Haven waterfront

MassDot will hold a public hearing on Sept. 14 regarding Beach Road improvements. —Nelson Sigelman

Ralph Packer has begun circulating a petition that calls on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to reduce the Beach Road speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph from Five Corners to Winds Up and from 40 mph to 30 mph to the Lagoon Pond drawbridge.

“Further, we request the installation of a pedestrian-crossing warning signal for the crosswalk at Winds Up to alert motorists entering Tisbury to slow down (from 6 am – 6 pm),” the petition reads.

Mr. Packer, owner of R.M. Packer Co., a heating and fueling operation and barge depot on Beach Road, said Wednesday he and other supporters had collected about 150 signatures, and expected to present the petition to town officials next week.

Mr. Packer told The Times he is concerned about people speeding when they enter town from Oak Bluffs. He said it is easy for drivers to be distracted by the scenery along the stretch of road where the the speed limit is 40 mph, and suddenly the road enters a congested working-waterfront area.

Town and state officials are overseeing a comprehensive redesign of the road corridor from Five Corners to the seawall. The Tisbury transportation subcommittee recently met with Mr. Packer to discuss the possibility of a 3.5-foot taking from his property to extend a sidewalk 400 feet on the north side of Beach Road. He was unwilling to go along with the plan, but said he had some other ideas.

Requests for speed-limit changes must be made to MassDOT, which usually requests that the town or city conduct a traffic count and speed study. The agency then makes a determination on the need for a change based on that data.

State speed limits are most often set based on a measurement known as the 85th percentile. The 85th percentile is the speed traveled by 85 percent of the cars using a roadway. Traffic engineers assume that 85 percent of the drivers travel at a reasonable and safe speed.