For the Mattapoisett Bike Path Study Committee, it’s been a long 26 years of trying to work out all the moving parts associated with the construction of a multi-million-dollar bike path that will one day connect through Mattapoisett from Fairhaven to Marion.
Along the way there have been triumphs and setbacks, but the quest has continued even with the latest issue, defective bridge planking, plaguing Phase 1b.
At the October 13 meeting of the MBPSC, longtime Chairman Stephen Kelleher told the group that the problem with the bridge planking remains unresolved to date. He did say that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials in Boston were seeking review of the defective materials by an independent third party before settling on a course of corrective measures.
“Everything is on the table,” he said of the planking dilemma. Kelleher said the resident MassDOT engineer is not involved in the review process at this point, thus everyone is waiting for word from the state office in Boston.
Still, other complications face Phase 2a, Kelleher explained.
Phase 2a, a portion of the bike-path design that would wend the pathway from the intersection of Depot Street and Good Speed Island to Industrial Drive, will require easements that have yet to be mapped, including wetland delineations, and assessed for value. Kelleher said he had believed there were monies remaining from a Community Preservation Act grant that the project received in 2016. However, he has since learned that the funds were exhausted on other engineering work associated with the bike path.
Deepening the complexity of getting the next phase started is the lapse of easements approved at a 1997 Town Meeting but eventually expired due to a lack of action. “It passed at Town Meeting, but it was never acted upon.… There is no record of a taking,” Kelleher stated. He further stated that in 2001 the then sitting Board of Selectmen took what should have been an easement for the bike path, instead using it for a sewer right-of-way.
Work continues, Kelleher said, with Town Administrator Mike Lorenco trying with Attorney Matthew Thomas to untangle the land issues and get assessments for any land for which taksing and easements will be necessary. “Possibly next month or so we should have costs and get this thing going,” he said.
New member Dick Grahn asked, “Is there an action plan that scopes out the vision?” Kelleher responded, “We need to get ready to push on Phase 2a to get on the TIP (Massachusetts Transportation Improvement Program) over the next three to five years.” Continuing on, Kelleher said it’s a two-pronged approach. “One, the $500,000 for Industrial Drive and, two, get an article to Town Meeting to get easement rights and appraisals.”
On a happier note, Kelleher said that the Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path has secured approval from the Select Board on the style of benches and bike racks that it may purchase and place along Phase 1b when it opens and along the recently completed connector at the end of Industrial Drive to the Marion line.
The board also recently approved the installation of a stop sign at the intersection of Bay Club Drive and Industrial Drive for safety purposes now that more pedestrian and cycling traffic is anticipated in that area.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Bike Path Study Committee is scheduled for Wednesday, November 10, at 5:30 pm.
Mattapoisett Bike Path Study Committee
By Marilou Newell