Sand-free finale for the Beach Road project?


Updated Dec. 29

After some finger-pointing between the town of Tisbury and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the state appears to have taken the lead in tidying up road shoulder sand on Beach Road. As The Times previously reported, sand on the shoulders of Beach Road created a hazard for bicyclists, because the shoulders double as bike lanes. The sand issue isn’t the only thing Tisbury and MassDOT have squabbled over. In 2020, as the nearly $5 million project was ramping up, Tisbury claimed it wasn’t getting the information about the project it needed from MassDOT. Tisbury and MassDOT locked horns on who was responsible for identifying underground utilities that were in the way of the project, and who would foot the bill for relocating those utilities. Ultimately the scope of the project was downgraded. Plans originally called for a shared use path (SUP) and more extensive drainage work. The pared-down plan saw the SUP transformed into bike lanes, and the drainage work reduced to cleaning and shoring up existing drainage infrastructure — not adding anything new.

A chemical product used as part of the sidewalk construction process for the project appeared to be hazardous to aquatic life (Beach Road straddles Vineyard Haven Harbor and Lagoon Pond). MassDOT claimed it was using the chemical product per specifications given by Tisbury to ensure sidewalks looked the way the town wanted them to look. MassDOT said it adhered to best practices when using the chemical product. After The Times pointed out the pollution risk the product might pose, MassDOT continued to use it, stating that while “cognizant of the potential environmental impacts” of the product, the agency continued to exercise best practices. Even after Tisbury moved away from the product for sidewalk work elsewhere in town in favor of something more environmentally friendly, MassDOT continued to employ it. The use of the product came after MassDOT poured sidewalks for the project that were outside the specs Tisbury wanted. MassDOT wound up having to tear up those new sidewalks and repour them

As to the sand removal, MassDOT spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley told The Times it was part and parcel with general street sweeping work. “The sweeping operations which were recently done on Beach Road in Tisbury were done as part of a larger MassDOT contract for maintenance of state roads on Martha’s Vineyard,” Reardon Riley wrote. 

She went on to write, “Road sweeping operations on this section of state highway in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs are scheduled on a bi-monthly basis, or as needed due to significant weather events.”

As to the end of the project, she wrote, “There is still some utility-related work that needs to be done, including the relocation of utility lines and removal of poles. Once that work has been completed, the contractor will only have minor ‘punch list’ type work to put the finishing touches on the project. It is anticipated this work will be completed within the next two to three months, weather permitting.”

Updated with additional photos.