Tisbury selectmen consider ‘hybrid hybrid’ Beach Road plan

The board expects to vote on one of the three proposed plans at a public hearing on Tuesday.

Tisbury planning board chairman Dan Seidman attempted to explain the most recent Beach Road reconstruction design Tuesday. – Photo by Cathryn McCann

Tisbury selectmen introduced a third iteration of a Beach Road reconstruction plan Tuesday night. Despite their best efforts, selectmen were unable to persuade members of the public who attended the meeting to hold off on discussion until next week, prompting an hourlong exchange among town officials, selectmen, and members of the public, who packed the room.

“We have a hybrid of a hybrid plan that popped up that we want to look at tonight, so that’s our primary focus this evening,” chairman Tristan Israel said. “I’ll allow a little bit of stray into the other plans, but next week the plan is to discuss any of the options that have been put on the table, and probably make a decision.”

The “hybrid hybrid” option follows an effort to extend a sidewalk 400 feet on the harbor side of Beach Road to Mone Insurance Agency, modifying a “hybrid” plan that had the sidewalk ending more or less where it currently ends, near the Shell station. The sidewalk extension required a right-of-way extension from 41 feet to 44.5 feet for the section of road in front of R.M. Packer Co., a heating and fueling operation and barge depot on Beach Road. Property owner Ralph Packer said no, sending the Tisbury transportation subcommittee and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) design team back to the drawing board.

The result is a final “hybrid hybrid” design that strays from the initial hybrid design by extending a harborside sidewalk up to to Mr. Packer’s property, where the cruise ships dock. Pedestrians walking toward the drawbridge would cross the street.

Otherwise, the plan is consistent with the original hybrid plan, which varies from a “symmetrical road” plan by including a “shared-use path” (SUP). The hybrid plan utilizes a 41-foot right of way, which is just 1 foot wider than the current 40-foot right of way. The design includes two 10.5-foot travel lanes with 4.5-foot bicycle lanes, and 5.5-foot sidewalks on either side from the Five Corners intersection to the Tisbury marketplace, with an eventual transition to an SUP section. That section would include the same 10.5-foot travel lanes, but one side would have a 2-foot buffer and 2-foot shoulder, and the other side would have a 2-foot shoulder with a 3- to 4-foot landscape area and 10-foot shared-use path. It would connect to the existing SUP between Winds Up and the Lagoon Pond drawbridge and a future 10-foot SUP crossing over the bridge into Oak Bluffs. The asymmetrical design is an attempt to accommodate bicyclists both on- and off-road.

In order to extend the sidewalk on the harbor side, the “hybrid hybrid” requires narrowing the SUP for that length of the road on the south side.

A third plan in consideration is a “symmetrical” road, with two 10.5-foot travel lanes, 4.5-foot bicycle lanes, and 5.5-foot sidewalks on either side extending as far as the drawbridge. That design requires bicyclists remain in the road.

The SUP was proposed as part of an effort by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) to address bicycle and pedestrian safety on the Island with a down-Island network of SUPs.

“This was primarily viewed as a bicycle-pedestrian improvement plan, and the funding and description for this project is so described,” town administrator Jay Grande said. “The challenge has been how to keep this plan within the context of how it was originally envisioned.”

The project has been in the works for over a year, and numerous objections to it have been raised. Beach Road resident Frank Brunelle voiced concerns Tuesday about traffic conflicts with bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the street after the SUP ends, congestion within the SUP itself, and a future plan to direct cyclists to the ferry via a complex network. He said it could be “another Five Corners further up the road as a result of the shared-use path.”

Bill Veno, senior planner for the MVC, said he had concerns with the “hybrid hybrid” plan narrowing the shared-use path, in what will likely be a congested segment of the road.

“I’m just concerned that at that point in the shared-use path, that’s already got waivers to reduce it down to 10 feet, now it’s down to even less than that,” he said.

MassDOT is willing to move forward with any of the three plans, Mr. Israel said.

There will be a public meeting to discuss the Beach Road project at 6 pm in the Tisbury town hall Tuesday, Sept. 29. Mr. Israel said he hopes that the board will vote on the project.

Harbor report

In other business, Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur said that the summer went “very smoothly,” although the season is not over, because the harbor continues to be full of transit activity.

“I had some great staff, I got compliments regularly on my staff’s abilities and behaviors, we accommodated all the boats we could, and we helped the people we couldn’t directly accommodate,” he said. The pump-out program was very busy, and the new pump-out station at Owen Park “worked extremely well,” he said.

The public discussion that followed unearthed a number of issues, including low staffing, the condition of town piers and docks, leveraging the funding necessary for infrastructure improvement, and collecting payments from commercial boats parked at the docks. Jim Lobdell, chairman of the harbor management committee, said he wants to see improved communication between harbor operations and the town, and action on longstanding issues. “We can’t just keep passing the bucket around town,” he said. “The place is getting run down.”

The board approved a request from HGTV to film in Tisbury and other Island towns for the show “Island Life” between Thursday and Monday.