At long last, Phase I of the next construction segments of the Mattapoisett Bike Path has received a hearing date with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. This very pivotal public hearing is scheduled for September 25 at 7:00 pm in the Old Hammondtown School auditorium. Depending on how this hearing goes, either Mattapoisett will have a complete bike path in the coming years or it won’t.
After exhaustive efforts on multiple fronts, including town meetings where the bike path was favorably viewed and funded, both the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path and the Bike Path Committee will meet face-to-face in a public hearing held by MassDOT.
Bonnie DeSousa, whose work on behalf of the Mattapoisett Bike Path might well go down in the history books for the shear amount of time and energy she has poured into trying to secure a safe biking route for the community, called a meeting on August 27 to share details about the hearing.
She said that MassDOT is an enormous department, whose responsibilities include massive highway projects, and it moves at a very slow pace; therefore, finally getting a hearing is a huge milestone for the bike path project. DeSousa said that it has been terribly difficult to get clear information from the DOT, at times receiving confusing directives, or worse yet, no response at all. “They do major projects … our little one mile doesn’t get a lot of attention…” she shared.
Now with the hearing close at hand, she impressed upon the 12 or so attendees the importance of spreading the word and getting citizens to the hearing to show support and community commitment. DeSousa further noted that the Phase I section that will be the focus of the hearing impacts projects in other towns as well.
Phase I is the section that will unite the bike path that presently ends at Mattapoisett Neck with Route 6. The plan is to have the new piece wiggle through tender environmental wetlands near the YMCA and Reservation Golf Course as gently as possible and come out at Depot Street. A Phase II segment would eventually bring the bike path to the Industrial Park area, but Phase I must pass muster first.
DeSousa asked that people send letters to William Chi, Project Manager, MassDOT, Highway Division, Room 6340, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA, 02116, expressing how this project will positively impact the lives of the residents in the region and in Mattapoisett. She said that letters should speak to the health benefits of having a safe biking space for people of all ages, while possibly making bicycling a more integral part of a household, such as using it to get to work or shopping.
She said that if people want to speak at the public hearing they should be prepared to do so from a written statement, and leave with the DOT members the hardcopy for the file.
Mattapoisett has invested in the process by voting for funds in the tens of thousands of dollars to help offset engineering costs. Now, DeSousa feels, residents who support this project need to turn out for the public hearing– and the more the better.
In a recent conversation with Town Administrator Mike Gagne, DeSousa said that certain town hall departments will be asked to participate in the hearing. Selectmen will also be in attendance.
DeSousa said that she will be contacting everyone again regarding a letter writing rally tentatively scheduled for September 10 at a time and place to be announced.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Bike Path Committee is September 11 at 7:30 pm in the town hall conference room. She urged people to attend that meeting as well.
By Marilou Newell