On February 14, Representative William Straus announced via social media that D.W. White of Acushnet won the construction contract for the $6.7 million Phase 1B Mattapoisett Bike Path project.
Straus, an advocate for the project and resident of Mattapoisett, visited the MassDOT’s Boston office last Thursday, joining Massachusetts Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver to sign and award the contract to construct the next phase of the Mattapoisett Bike Path.
The project will add 1.28 miles to the existing Fairhaven-Mattapoisett bike path, proceeding eastward from Neck Road, over the river, along the marsh and public beachfront property near the Mattapoisett YMCA, and to the village at Depot Street. According to Straus, a “notice to proceed” will be issued next month, which will allow construction equipment and supplies to be mobilized.
“This milestone could not have been reached without the thousands of volunteer hours of many residents in town over the last twenty-five years,” Straus stated. “I have been happy to have helped this along in every way possible, including the funding for this phase.”
Straus also congratulated Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Karen Polito for their support for the project.
“I look forward to joining the public in making use of this new park area which will soon become available,” Straus stated.
It all began in 1996 when Mattapoisett created a Bike Path Committee to explore the idea of bringing a recreational pathway through Mattapoisett.
“We never gave up,” said Steve Kelleher, chairman of the Mattapoisett Bike Path Committee. “I almost got fired, but I never gave up.” He shared that at one point former members of the Board of Selectmen considered dissolving the committee, yet the committee members persisted.
The coming years would find the committee and its supporters able to cobble together sufficient taxpayer monies through Town Meeting consensus for the required engineering studies and preliminary designs that preceded grant applications to MassDOT for the construction of Phase 1. Phase 1 joined with Fairhaven’s bike path at Brandt Island Road through backyard easements and an old railroad easement to Mattapoisett Neck Road. There it ended. The committee, along with the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path, continued to peddle through the massive bureaucracy and red tape associated with state and federal grant applications, as well as working with numerous abutters.
And while the residents attending town meetings over these 23 years have continued to support the bike path with funds required by those grants, it has been a bumpy road. However, with the current state administration’s fiscal support of recreational spaces in the Commonwealth, Mattapoisett and other communities will see their bike paths funded, although not completely.
The endgame for the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path and the local Bike Path Committee is to find the means to connect Mattapoisett (and Fairhaven) to Marion and increase the southeast’s network of shared-use trails. For now, Kelleher is just pleased to see Phase1B secure.
“It’s going to be spectacular,” said Kelleher, adding that this new short span will be both challenging and exciting, with a boardwalk nearly half a mile long and 14 feet wide. The wetlands, however, that Phase1B must cross are massive. Creative engineering by Foth-CLE Engineering Group helped make conservation oversight possible.
“I’m thrilled,” said Bonne DaSousa, a longtime hard-driving advocate for the bike path and the much larger project, the South Coast Bikeway. She shared with The Wandererthat, although she anticipated the MassDOT contract signing, she had not received confirmation that it had taken place. When it was confirmed, her voice nearly rang like a bell.
DaSousa’s work throughout the Phase 1B engineering and funding stages cannot be overstated. Every step of the way she has strived to aid residents and supporters in understanding all the myriad steps necessary before state funds could possibly be acquired. Even then it was never a sure thing. Yet nothing ventured, nothing gained seems to be her theme song.
Now with Phase 1B about to break ground in the spring, DeSousa redoubles her focus on Phase 2.
In an email to The Wanderer, DaSousa reported that Mattapoisett has applied for a $300,000 grant for the construction of a small half-mile segment of bike path starting at Industrial Drive and connecting to the Marion Pathway.While Phase 1B was a complicated project to engineer, Phase 2 will have just as many challenges, namely the crossing of Route 6 and North Street.
DeSousa also stated that grants for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation would be sought to fund part of Phase 2. Once again, Town Meeting will need to support preliminary engineering up to 20 percent of the total estimate project.
“It’s complicated,” DeSousa conceded during a phone interview. She said that Phase 2 will also be part of a larger project that plans to improve Industrial Drive from North Street to nearly the Marion town line. Conceptual ideas include a bike lane running alongside the travel lanes of a new Industrial Drive roadway and ending at the entrance of the final quarter-mile piece that will be exclusively for non-motorized travel.
“A bike-able connection to Marion is part of the whole Industrial Drive upgrade project,” said DeSousa.
The Industrial Drive project will include the Highway and Water and Sewer Departments as the Town attempts to expand business opportunities within the Limited Industrial Zone. A variety of grant sources are being studied, DeSousa said.
But those are plans and dreams for another day. For now, Mattapoisett can look forward to a shared-use pathway through a wetlands system that promises to be grand and accessible to all.
By Marilou Newell