At the end of July, the Town submitted an $8.5 million dollar grant proposal to the Federal Department of Transportation (“DOT”) to reconstruct Industrial Drive and build a separated bike/pedestrian path from the North Street “Park and Ride” to the Marion Town line. Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne described the project’s benefits: “It will facilitate industrial and commercial development, improve public safety, and increase connectivity for bikers and walkers across the region.”
Friends of the Bike Path identified the grant opportunity in late June through their contacts at East Coast Greenway, a national organization that promotes an off-road bike touring route from Maine to Florida. Friends’ volunteers worked with the Town to define the proposal and meet the tight application deadline. The potential economic impact of the project is substantial due to new opportunities to build new or expanded facilities and add new jobs in a current industrial district of the Town. Letters of support came from Representative Bill Straus and the Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation who stressed the importance of economic development in the area. A team of volunteers, consultants, and Town staff are working to ensure that all eligibility requirements will be met. The date of grant award notification is December 18, 2018. If the Town is not awarded a grant and DOT does not commit all the money, the Town will be eligible to submit for a second round of funding.
The grant, called “BUILD,” is administered by Federal Highways Administration. It is a funding opportunity for transportation projects that assist economic development and regional transportation connectivity. At least $450 million, and possibly more, is reserved for projects in rural American communities. Industrial Drive and the half mile to Marion are classified as rural areas. Rural communities often lose funding opportunities because of they lack organizational resources to apply for such funding. Much of the work of writing the grant was done by volunteers from the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path.
If the Town is awarded a grant, the results would be:
1) A safe crossing of North Street plus a new bike lane or sidewalk near the Park and Ride;
2) A revised and safer vehicle intersection at Industrial Drive and North Street (with turning lanes, through-traffic lanes and islands to separate traffic), and;
3) A separated path for bikes and pedestrians along Industrial Drive, including a “realignment” of the road so walking and biking will be on the north side of Industrial Drive, to avoid most driveways and trucks. The road work will allow Industrial Drive businesses to upgrade their sewer systems, introducing new opportunities for expansion and facilitating more diverse businesses.
The grant would include paving the existing gravel water service road east of Industrial Drive to Marion Town line where it would meet Marion’s Bike/Ped Pathway, establishing an attractive connection to Marion on the Old Boston and Maine Railroad Right of Way and a 20-mile regional bike route on a car free bike path and low traffic rural/small town roads. All components have received some planning attention over the years.
The grant application shows how concurrently developing the bike path and the Industrial Drive Rehabilitation can improve public safety, recreational and tourist amenities, and economic activity in one complete project. Barry Denham, Mattapoisett’s Highway Surveyor, who has overseen multiple road reconstruction projects, immediately saw the benefit of applying for the grant. “We are going to have to do the pre-design engineering work for reconstruction of Industrial Drive now over 50 years old, which is deteriorating due to heavy truck traffic. Doing the engineering work for the Shared-Use Path at the same time makes sense. This is just packaging several pieces together since they interconnect.” The grant application emphasized that conducting all the work along this mile and a half would make for a more efficient project, reduce overall costs, minimize disruption, and be consistent with the federal BUILD ONCE philosophy.
Gagne explained, “A key part of the grant requirements is being ‘shovel ready.’ Federal funds will only be freed up if all permits are in hand by Fall of 2020. We want to have the engineers and experts working to produce the design, engineering and analysis in early 2019 so that permit submissions can be made well in advance of the ‘shovel ready’ deadline.” The work is straight forward, but the review process could take some time. Some of the design costs could be reimbursed through the grant.” He also noted that this is a “Smart Growth” project: “Construction at an already developed Industrial District near the highway exit will increase and diversify the town’s tax base and provide job opportunities for residents while minimizing impacts to the residential character of the Town by being in a current existing town industrial district.”