At Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, final input will be taken on how best to proceed with proposed intersection and sidewalk improvements. Now that we have bids which exceed our budget for the Complete Streets projects, decisions are needed as to which projects and what design elements will go forward at this time. Given the on-going debates regarding the design elements for the two main village intersections (Central and School; Union and Beach), the focus is on the other two projects (Washington and Summer; Beach Street sidewalk.)
For the last few years, residents, various committees, staff and the Selectmen have been working on ways to enhance pedestrian and biker safety. Thanks to the hard work of the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, we have completed the Safe Routes to School project, adopted the local option for lower speed limits, and have been participating in the state’s Complete Streets program. This program aims to accommodate pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicular traffic as roadway improvements are pursued.
Our Complete Streets work began with the adoption of policies aimed at promoting multi-model transportation, moved next to completing an inventory of possible improvements throughout town that would enhance other means of getting around besides by vehicles, and resulted in securing grant funding for four of the 16 projects identified in the inventory.
Going from concept design to final design on the four projects has generated a good amount of interest and a wide range of opinions as to what the final design should actually be. There are sometimes competing needs that are not easily accommodated. For example, making crosswalks safer often involves improving site distances, which means getting pedestrians out from behind parked cars. This can mean eliminating parking spaces which is a particular concern for business owners. Also, going to final design allows for more detailed cost determinations which, as often happens, are higher than what was predicted at the concept level.
With bids finally in hand we have a total price for the four projects (intersection improvements at School/Central, Beach/Union and Washington/Summer/Sea and improving the sidewalk to Singing Beach) that is over 2.5 times higher than our grant award. We only have funds to do two of the original projects.
The least controversial project is the improvement to the Washington/Summer/Sea Street intersection. This seems like a good place to start. The sidewalk along Beach Street from Masconomo Street to the Singing Beach parking lot is another strong contender to undertake but perhaps after scaling it back to keep it as a sidewalk only and keeping bicyclists on the street. This means widening the sidewalk only out to the existing curb-line, not encroaching on the road or abutter’s property and striping for bikers in the roadway. Concerns have been expressed for this work as well, but a compromise seems within reach.
Selectmen have had a lot of feedback to date and welcome any new comments on the Complete Streets projects at their Monday meeting. This topic is scheduled for 6:45 p.m.