Tisbury selectmen tackle transportation, approve mooring moratorium

Is Tisbury being “squeezed out” by other Island projects?

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Liz Flanagan presented possible projects that would qualify for the state-funded Complete Streets program. —Stacey Rupolo

Updated March 23 at 12:30 pm

Tisbury selectmen covered a lot of ground during their meeting on Tuesday at the Katharine Cornell Theater — discussing improvement projects that qualify for state funding, hearing a bleak update on the Beach Road project, and approving a temporary moratorium on elastic moorings.

The Tisbury Vision Council and the Tisbury planning board, along with representatives from Howard Stein Hudson, a Boston-based traffic engineering firm, have been compiling a list of pedestrian improvement projects in Vineyard Haven that might qualify for funding from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Complete Streets Program.

The program may provide up to $400,000 annually to individual towns for improvements geared toward pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit users. According to MassDOT criteria, the projects must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), environmentally friendly, and improve pedestrian and bicyclist mobility.

Liz Flannagan, along with Keri Pyke, transportation planners at Howard Stein Hudson, presented the prioritization plan — a list of 95 projects — to the Tisbury selectmen on Tuesday. The firm was hired by Tisbury in December to help decide which projects would qualify.

Ms. Flannagan went through the list of projects that she and Ms. Pyke compiled after input from the various workshops. Lagoon Pond Road enhancements, access to and from the future site of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and improvements around the Steamship Authority were some of the major projects on the list.

“It’s a flexible list, and it’s supposed to work for you,” Ms. Flannagan said.

The deadline to submit the prioritization plan to MassDOT is April 1. Only projects that are already designed and ready to execute, e.g. sidewalk reconstruction and crosswalks, will be presented this year. Projects still in the design phase will remain on the list, and may be submitted to MassDOT later. Proposed projects that exceed the $400,000 maximum will require more than one funding source, such as Chapter 90 funds, which provide state reimbursement for roadway projects.

Residents voiced concern over the funding sources of various projects, and asked what role the Department of Public Works will play in the process. They also asked about the financial responsibility of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and the Steamship Authority for projects that they are involved in. After some discussion, pothole maintenance, stormwater management, and Holmes Hole Road improvements were added to the list.

In light of the looming April 1 deadline, selectmen agreed to meet with the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the planning board next week. The final project priority list will be approved at the next selectmen’s meeting on March 28, then sent to MassDOT.

‘Hand-me-downs’

Selectmen were supposed to hear a presentation from MassDOT regarding the Beach Road project plans, which are purportedly 75 percent complete, but MassDOT canceled, and no reason was given as to why. The state and federally funded Beach Road project, now estimated at more than $2.6 million, will redo the half-mile stretch from Five Corners in Vineyard Haven to the seawall past R.M. Packer Co.

Jay Grande, Tisbury town administrator, gave a grim prognosis to selectmen. The project was supposed to begin in 2018, but MassDOT officials told the Martha’s Vineyard Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) that they suggested postponing it to 2020.

The JTC made a list of Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) projects, and on one list, the Beach Road project ranked first in priority, with an anticipated start date of 2018. But on a secondary list, the acquisition of electric buses for the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) ranked first for 2018, and Beach Road was set at 2019 to 2020.  

“We’re getting squeezed out from other Island projects,” selectman Tristan Israel said.

“I feel like the stepchild,” selectman Larry Gomez said. “We’re getting the hand-me-down stuff. We’ve been talking about this since 2012.”

Mr. Israel and Mr. Gomez agreed to send a letter to MassDOT, and to Senator Julian Cyr, to express their concerns. Chairman of the selectmen Melinda Loberg was absent from the meeting.

Mooring moratorium

Selectmen unanimously approved a temporary moratorium on the installation of additional elastic moorings in Tisbury waters, beginning immediately and ending May 24.

The request came from John Crocker, Tisbury harbormaster, and the harbor management committee and its subcommittee, to allow time to draft elastic mooring regulations, vet them publicly, and have them approved by selectmen.

There are currently no regulations for elastic moorings, also referred to as conservation moorings, other than they be inspected, but the harbor management subcommittee has been in the process of drafting the rules — where they want them and don’t want them, and specifics regarding the mooring tackle.

Conservation moorings differ extensively from conventional moorings. Instead of chain connecting a block of cement or mushroom anchor that sits on the harbor bottom to a floating mooring buoy, the conservation moorings have an elastic cord made up of a mix of rubber, plastic, and polyester woven together. Because the cord is connected to the anchor by a buoy that floats beneath the surface of the water, the mooring line does not drag along the seafloor, as a chain, which is customarily much longer than the cord, does.

For Lagoon Pond, Lake Tashmoo, and Vineyard Haven Harbor, the benefit of conservation moorings is the preservation of eelgrass — a vital part of the seabed. Eelgrass is important habitat for juvenile scallops, fish, and all manner of sea life, and is an indicator of water quality. It is doing poorly or disappearing altogether in some Tisbury waters.

Because there are different kinds of elastic moorings, Tisbury has no specifications for what kinds may be used where, or standards to inspect them.