The wrangling is finally over and the much-debated Beach Road improvement plan is ready for the next step as town leaders presumably send the plan along to state highway officials for action.

But it was pretty painful getting there, with three selectmen who could not reach consensus and a public process that was at best confusing, at worst obfuscatory.

The plan began more than a year ago when the town learned that state and federal money was available to help improve the stretch of road from Five Corners to the drawbridge. The project got a priority designation because the heavily congested, mixed commercial/light industrial area, a critical link between Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, is so obviously hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists. Currently this section of Beach Road, which runs along the harbor’s edge on one side, has no bike path or bikeway and sidewalks are scattered and disconnected. After state funding became available, planners at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission stepped in to assist with the work.

There are few stretches of roadway where the need to provide safe passage for bikers and walkers is more obvious. But somewhere along what should have been a straight path to approval, things went awry. Late-stage public meetings on the plan held in recent weeks included three design choices that were confusing, not least in nomenclature: symmetrical, hybrid, hybrid-hybrid. Hard to tell at times whether the town was talking about a road improvement plan or some strange math and science project. Last week in a second vote where one board member changed his position, the selectmen did finally decide on a plan (hybrid-hybrid as opposed to symmetrical). But by then spokesmen for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said it would likely be too late for the $2.4 million project to make the funding cycle for this year.

Thankfully the project can still be funded in a subsequent year. But the whole process left lingering questions about how Tisbury, the Vineyard’s main port town, manages its affairs.

For the sake of contrast, decision making in the Squibnocket beach improvement plan last year in Chilmark — like the Beach Road plan, complicated, controversial, involving competing interests and lacking clear consensus — was managed in a carefully orchestrated series of transparent steps, driven in part by the need to meet a deadline for a far smaller grant of funds.

To be sure, Tisbury town leaders, aided by technical studies, expert advice and public comment, had to sort through a lot of sometimes contradictory information to come up with the best possible plan. But the clear need for some kind of resolution before another busy summer passes and a looming funding deadline should have been enough to bring this protracted process to an earlier conclusion.

In governing, making a decision is often more important than making the perfect decision. Any of the plans for Beach Road would have been an improvement on what we have now. Now that a decision has been made, let’s hope the town can put aside its differences and build on that.