Beach Road project design now in hands of MassDOT

A representative from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said the project is still on track for fiscal year 2017 funding.

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

Martha’s Vineyard Commission transportation planner Priscilla Leclerc said Tuesday that the 25 percent design for the Beach Road project was recently submitted by a design consultant to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The project includes a comprehensive and long-discussed redesign of Beach Road from Five Corners to the seawall, a project which has been in the works for several years.

Now, various departments at MassDOT must review the design prior to the town holding a public hearing.

“If they have any changes or things for the consultant, that usually happens before it’s presented to the public,” Ms. Leclerc said.

Her guesstimate for the hearing was March 2016, but ultimately the timeline is up to MassDOT to determine.

“From previous experience, it takes about eight weeks from after they have the 25 percent design, at least,” Ms. Leclerc said.

MassDOT supervising project manager Thomas Currier said “late spring” was a better guess. He said it depends on when the district office can schedule a utility coordination meeting, a gathering of all the necessary utility companies, local department of public works and safety department members, and MassDOT representatives to go pole-by-pole along the street determining necessary right-of-way easements and other utility changes.

“It’s quite a crowd, and we figure out where they’re all going to go, pole by pole by pole on the street, and all the other things that are associated with it,” Mr. Currier said. “There’s a lot to it, and then the designer has to capture it all on a set of plans.”

The town has also requested the utilities be undergrounded, if possible. That will require more discussion, given that undergrounding utilities is only funded if it’s the only way to get them out of the way, and not just an improvement. Otherwise, the utilities will be relocated.

All of that must occur before the public hearing.

Meanwhile, the question remains whether project funding will be pushed from fiscal year 2017 (FY17), beginning July 1, to FY18, which became a possibility after extensive discussion surrounding several proposed designs kept the town from moving forward with the project.

Ms. Leclerc said it’s looking doubtful that the original FY17 funding timeline will prevail. Mr. Currier, however, said it’s dependent on the necessary reviews and utility discussions in the coming months, but as it currently stands, the project is still programmed for FY17.

“Theoretically it could still stay in fiscal year 17,” he said. “If it were to change, we wouldn’t know that for months. There are several moving pieces that have to fall into place, and most likely they will.”

Tisbury selectmen voted 2-1 in October in favor of a version of the so-called “hybrid-hybrid” plan for Beach Road. The hybrid plans feature a 10-foot wide shared-use path (SUP) that would begin at the Tisbury Marketplace and connect to the existing SUP between Wind’s Up and the Lagoon Pond drawbridge, and a future 10-foot SUP crossing over the bridge into Oak Bluffs.The vote included a proposal to extend the sidewalk on the harbor side “as far as possible toward the bridge” and leading to an area that would be a safe transition over to the south side of the road.