The Marion Pathways Committee met on December 22 via Zoom to provide members an update of the bike path that in collaboration with the South Coast Bikeway Alliance will continue from the paved portion at the Mattapoisett town line and continue east to Point Road.
In 2020, Marion submitted a 75-percent plan of its Shared Use Path to the MassDOT. In contrast to the 25-percent design plan and the 100 percent completed plan that has secured all permits, a 75 percent plan is, according to John Rockwell, “almost done” yet still a plan that the DOT sends back and enacts a Conflict/Resolution meeting.
“Basically, you say, ‘Okay.’ They’re in the driver’s seat,” explained Rockwell.
Three basic issues remain at the 75-percent point: Washburn Lane, Washburn Park Road and drainage at the influx of Baldwin Brothers and Brew Fish Restaurant.
In displaying the path from the Mattapoisett town line to the Wareham town line from west to east, it follows Route 6 most of the way until it reaches Front Street, then it turns left and winds its way through Washburn Park, the old railroad bed and out to Point Road near Route 195.
According to Rockwell, the DOT does not like to have cars on the same path as bikes and pedestrians. That comes into play for a 200-foot stretch where a steep decline is near the baseball field. The DOT suggested a retaining wall for that stretch, which Rockwell said is a good idea.
To that end, he shared to the Zoom meeting images of areas of the course on his computer screen and color-coded them so that red lines showing the original plan are superseded in areas marked by green lines.
Closer to Washburn Park, there is another 200-foot stretch where the original plan was to dig up the road and wind up in a shared-use situation. The revision is a much less wide path that will not be shared with cars. Rockwell playfully called Washburn Lane “Marion’s only divided highway.”
The path snakes across Front Street and through the Brew Fish parking lot, Baldwin Brothers and the property owned by developer Sherman Briggs, but it will require some engineering to solve drainage concerns.
In December, Rockwell held a site visit to that area with Mattapoisett-based Field Engineering, which is designing the path’s drainage. Realigning the path direction is another area of engineering.
The next step is an easement plan and a dedication for bike-path purposes. “So we have to know exactly where this thing is going to go – survey-quality work,” said Rockwell.
Federal funding complicates the matter of easements. “The appraisal costs more than the value of the easements,” explained Rockwell. “Some of them are very simple and some of them aren’t.”
Rockwell estimates that 99.8 percent of the route is on town property, but a small piece of the pathway is on Jon Henry’s property so that also requires an easement. Henry, a former Marion selectman, currently serves on the Planning Board.
The pathway also cuts through property owned by Todd Zell and Baldwin Brothers.
Rockwell said that the affected property owners have been in the loop for four years, and there has been no discernible pushback. Actions required to secure the four or five easements take four months, according to Rockwell.
Select Board member John Waterman suggested finding a local attorney to do the legwork on property titles because KP Law has been backed up of late, but Rockwell said the town’s go-to legal counsel has been in the loop.
The majority that lies within town property still needs a dedication of usage which is a vote taken at Town Meeting.
“This thing has gone on longer than I expected,” said Rockwell, who says that the concept of a bikeway goes back to a 1973 Conservation Commission meeting.
February 6, 2023 is targeted as a start date for construction of the Marion stretch.
Some of the engineering challenge, said Rockwell, has been the working within the flat framework of a railroad bed while at the same time trying to achieve inclines and declines that are prescribed highway design to avoid puddles.
Jeff Oakes confirmed that the bike path had a “friends of” group 20 years ago, and there is still $500 in its account held by the town.
Oakes reported that the effort to petition the MassDOT to move Marion’s bike path up from FY24 to FY23 was successful. “It would have been a year later had we not taken up that letter-writing campaign,” said Oakes, who contributes to the South Coast Bikeway Alliance website.
His diplomacy work has resulted in significant fundraising, $5,000 of which has been dedicated toward Phase 2 of Marion’s path that will connect from Point Road to the Wareham section.
The membership agreed to reconvene in June, but no date was set.
Marion Pathways Committee
By Mick Colageo