It’s been 24 years since the Mattapoisett Bike Path Committee began the very long, very complicated process of planning a pedestrian and bicycling path through Mattapoisett. But now the light at the end of that path is very bright.
The committee along with members of the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path have been dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s as engineering plans for Phase 1B went to 100 percent design. This second piece of the pathway between Mattapoisett Neck Road and Depot Street is a critical one for the eventual connection between Mattapoisett, Marion, and beyond.
During a Mattapoisett Finance Committee meeting on April 19, Town Administrator Michael Gagne reported on information he had secured from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the agency that will ultimately build Phase 1B.
“The transportation improvement plan (TIP) has put projects into a five-year capital plan and that was ratified by metro planning. Mattapoisett is slated for 2018. Things are looking very good,” Gagne told the committee.
In a follow-up with Bike Path Committee Chairman Steven Kelleher, a man whose perseverance for over two decades has helped steer the path towards reality, said, “I’m presently in receipt of a draft from the Regional Transportation Improvement project. Mattapoisett is on there for 2018 and 2019.”
Securing TIP funding has been a major goal for the Town as projected costs have soared, thus making a project of this scope out of reach for the Town. When asked how much funding the state program will provide, Kelleher was reticent to disclose. “I don’t want to jinx things,” he said with a chuckle.
The committee is now waiting for the 21-day public comment phase to close and then it looks like smooth cycling towards a construction start date.
Bonne DeSousa, chairman of the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path, was very pleased.
“We started Phase 1B in May 2009,” DeSousa stated. Now, with the project nearing reality she breathed a sigh of relief. “In January, things were looking very good for full funding.” She confirmed that $4 million was the estimated construction cost and associated state funding.
DeSousa said, however, “We don’t build the bike path – that is under Mass DOT administration.” Thus, construction scheduling will not be under the control of the Town, she clarified. In spite of that, Gagne, Kelleher, and DeSousa all confirmed that a November 2018 start date is anticipated.
According to DeSousa, construction will most likely take two years to complete, but when it’s done, “Oh, there will most definitely be a celebration!”
The Town Meeting warrant includes an article asking voters to authorize the selectmen to complete easement agreements where necessary for the path, including any monies that may be needed for legal costs and other associated fees.
DeSousa has turned her focus to areas where she can make a difference to the entire South Coast Bikeway, a chain of pathways that will ultimately connect Swansea, Somerset, Fall River, Westport, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion, and Wareham. One of her focuses will be on ‘soft trails,’ cleared navigable unpaved trails.
“We’ll be looking at a soft trail between Acushnet Road and Park Street,” DeSousa said, believing that to be not only an important piece in bringing the bike path closer to a connection with Marion in the industrial park area, but also something that can be accomplished locally. She said that once a trail is established off North Street, it’s just a short half-mile “chuck” to Marion.
By Marilou Newell