Bike Path Bridge Planks Failing

            It came at the end of a long Planning Board meeting – troubling revelations that the planking on Mattapoisett’s heralded bike path Phase 1b was failing.

            Planning Board Administrator Mike Gagne advised the board members of discussions that have taken place with state agencies involved in the design and construction oversight of what is hoped to one day be a scenic recreational pathway through marshland and water features dubbed “The Shining Tides Pathway.”

            Gagne explained the series of events that brought this matter to attention. He said that several community members with professional engineering backgrounds have noticed problems with the planking along the bridge at Goodspeed Island beach. Those residents contacted Town Administrator Mike Lorenco with their observations and concerns. Lorenco wasted no time in contacting the local office of MassDOT to discuss the matter. Not receiving adequate responses as more community members noticed problems, Lorenco contacted Representative Bill Straus to assist and to engage MassDOT in the Boston office.

            “Three months ago, with the town administrator, we expressed our concerns over the material on the bridge,” Gagne began. He said that the planking used between the Goodspeed Island beach spanning over the Eel Pond breach is different material than that used in other locations along the pathway. “The planks are warping, and the laminated material is splitting,” he stated. Gagne said that the town has expressed its deep concerns over the defective materials and likely liability and costs the town would incur if those planks remain in place.

            “The town is on top of this [and] has stated [its] concerns over the long-term impact of the delaminating materials,” Gagne said, adding that some planks show knots that have fallen out.

            In a follow-up, Gagne said that the MassDOT design team had looked for “alternative analysis,” (cost-saving measures), to reduce materials expenses. “It’s a common practice.” He said that with Straus’ intervention it now appears that the state will bring in a third-party engineer to evaluate the situation and determine if the planks need replacement or can be remediated. That process is pending, he said.

            Gagne also said that the planking used from Reservation Road to Mattapoisett Neck Road was a far more costly product, a variety of mahogany, whereas the planks used in the beach span were the less-costly laminated pine.

            In other business, a 30-minute meeting with members of Beals and Thomas, the engineering firm overseeing the plans for a large solar array off Randall Lane, produced little in the way of forward movement for the project.

            Discussion themes included the more than 100 items identified by the town’s peer review consultants, BETA Engineering, and Beals and Thomas’ responses, as well as plans to subdivide the acreage into four lots in an effort to achieve permittable frontage for the project. Present was Town Counsel Jonathan Silverstein of KP Law, who said it is up to the Planning Board to determine if the existing roadway is sufficient for the use intended. He also said that frontage requirements are not exempted for solar projects. The hearing was continued until August 16.

            Continued until August 2 was an Approval Not Required petition filed by John Romanelli for property located on Dupont Street. Also continued was an ANR filed by David Monterio for lots located off Locust Street, and by the Town of Mattapoisett for lots located off Tinkham Hill Road. Adding to the August 2 agenda will be a continuation of a Definitive Subdivision planned for Park Lane Extension filed by Andre Rieksts, Scott Atkinson, and Margo Wilson-Atkinson.

            A nearly 30-minute discussion regarding the fate of a tree located at the intersection of North Street and Church Street was continued until September 20 after it was disclosed that the tree may not be located on a designated scenic roadway. Tree Warden Roland Cote had advocated for the tree’s removal due to its compromised health.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, August 2, at 7:00 pm.

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

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