At a three-hour-plus marathon meeting Tuesday, the Tisbury selectmen tentatively decided to take the Beach Road design question to a special town meeting before the end of the year.

“I think we tried to balance the needs of many different types of populations,” selectman Melinda Loberg said about the long process that has taken place around the hotly-debated issue. “I think that the process has at least driven us toward the best possible solution within the confines that we have of this modest town.”

Selectmen, who are divided over the project, will meet next week to decide on tentative plans to call a special town meeting for Dec. 8, as long as it does not jeopardize state funding for the road improvement project.

Discussions about the stretch of state-owned road that runs from Five Corners to the drawbridge have been ongoing for well over a year. In the past two months, the alternative designs have been the subject of discussion at selectmen’s meetings, planning board meetings and vision council meetings. With the road improvement project slated for state funding in 2017 and an application due soon with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the pressure has been on to make a decision.

Three options are under consideration: a so-called symmetrical design, with sidewalks and bike lanes all along the route; a so-called hybrid design that changes from sidewalks to a shared-use path at Tisbury Marketplace running to just before the bridge; and the latest idea, a so-called hybrid-hybrid design, which envisions a sidewalk opposite a shared-use path running to the start of Packer’s wharf.

At a packed meeting on the second floor of the Katharine Cornell Theatre Tuesday night, two of the three selectmen — Larry Gomez and Tristan Israel — voted to back the so-called symmetrical design, while the third board member Mrs. Loberg said she would back either one of the hybrid designs. Planning board members and a senior planner from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission who attended the meeting also favored a hybrid design. The MVC has assisted with planning on the project.

Calling the issue “a bear of a problem,” planning board member Cheryl Doble said it is impossible to get everything the town may want out of the road because of existing limitations.

Tisbury selectmen are divided, but will decide Tuesday whether to take the matter to a town meeting vote. — Heather Hamacek

“We don’t have that much road to give,” she said. “We’re the emergency access to the hospital, so at some point the cars have to have the room to pull over to the side so an ambulance can get through. We have looked and we have looked and we have drawn and we have drawn, it comes back to safety is the number one consideration.”

During public comment, opinion in the room was overwhelmingly in favor of a hybrid design with an off-road bicycle accommodation.

“It’s not like we’re inventing something new for the Island,” said MVC senior planner Bill Veno. “We’ve got 36 miles of [shared-use path] on the whole Island.”

He said voters at town meeting approved pursuing a shared-use path that travels behind Tisbury Marketplace and by Lagoon Pond. And the commission is in the process of creating a network of shared-use paths, he said.

“This shared-use path between Wind’s Up and Tisbury Marketplace was viewed as the next logical step and prioritized because of all these other actions that were going on at the town level and the regional level,” Mr. Veno said. “So it was prioritized to make this connection an off-road bicycle path, and this first option, the symmetrical one, doesn’t provide it.”

He said the commission recommends the first hybrid design, acknowledging it has shortcomings, but noting that it also leaves the option open for pedestrian access on the harbor side of the road in the future.

Dana Hodston said he supported having an off-road option for cyclists.

“I think the first hybrid is brilliant, it really gets you off the road,” he said. “When you have to get down to Five Corners it’s a little more dicey, I think because things are narrowing down, maybe it’s going to calm the traffic a little bit.”

He said the prospect of having cyclists on the road for the entire stretch was troubling. “I too have ridden this road,” he said. “And it’s really, really scary.”

In the end Mrs. Loberg urged her two colleagues to listen to the experts. “I don’t think either one of the three of us is a traffic expert or a traffic engineer or even a very good bicyclist,” she said. “So we had invoked and asked the planning board and professionals at the commission to help us in deciding. And they have done a lot of work on this project on our behalf. It’s important to me that we respect their input and hear what they have to say, and really take it more seriously than we do our own instincts and our own personal opinion. We are trying to decided on behalf on all of the Island and visitors not just in between us.”

Mr. Gomez and Mr. Israel stuck by their support for the first design option, but agreed that it may be best at this stage to bring the matter to a town meeting vote. Discussion is expected to continue at the next selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday.