Beach Road project on hold?

Packer companies raise questions about permitting of shared-use path.

Some property owners on Beach Road are unhappy with the state's plans for a shared-use path and what it will do to their properties. - Rich Saltzberg

Construction on the Beach Road shared-use path (SUP) project was slated to begin Sept. 8, but as of Sept. 23, no ground appears to have been broken. A recent notice from MassDOT estimated the contractor, Lawrence Lynch Corp., would begin work on Sept. 28. 

A cease and desist letter from attorneys representing Ralph Packer and companies may have delayed the start of the roadwork. On Sept. 1, attorneys from the Quincy firm Baker, Braverman and Barbadoro sent the letter to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Tisbury select board, alleging a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is required for the project and hasn’t been secured by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). 

“Our clients are very concerned about anticipated pollutant discharge from the subject project to waterways along which their properties are located,” the letter states. The letter goes on to state that documents filed two years ago indicate MassDOT was aware of the NPDES permit.

Asked last week by The Times what’s behind the delay, MassDOT spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley wrote that even though some “preliminary survey work” was done ahead of construction, “[t]he more extensive construction operations have not yet begun, as MassDOT is currently in the process of reviewing documentation that was required to be submitted by the contractor, including material shop drawings and the stormwater pollution prevention plan. In addition, the contractor is working with utility companies to incorporate the relocation of utilities into the overall construction schedule.”

Reardon Riley added that the “stormwater pollution prevention plan under review is related to the NPDES permit.”

A representative for the EPA had no immediate comment.

Prior to the expected start of construction, the town warned residents about the construction on its website, and Police Chief Mark Saloio shared the MassDOT press release warning of traffic detours and delays in what’s expected to be three years of construction. None of those traffic delays have materialized, as the project appears stalled by the permit question.

Asked about the lack of construction progress, Tisbury select board chair Jim Rogers said he wasn’t sure what the holdup was, and that MassDOT “doesn’t tell us anything.”

All three members of the board have criticized the state’s plan for the SUP, which was last reported at $4.7 million for construction last year. But the state has rejected the town’s push to have the bike path run symmetrically with the roadway. At a board meeting Tuesday, Rogers asked that the state project be put on the board’s Sept. 29 agenda, understanding it might be fruitless. He said the project has changed, including where it would come to an end on Beach Road.

Ralph Packer said he expects to meet with Rogers shortly about the SUP. “I don’t think this thing is well thought out as far as the people who make their living on Beach Road,” Packer said. He described the project as a “bicycler’s dream but a Beach Road nightmare.”

Other property owners along Beach Road are also critical of the state plans, with one of them posting signs to indicate just how much the state is taking by eminent domain to make way for the path.