HARWICH — The town has approved a design contract for road improvements along Route 28 from the Herring River Bridge to Upper County Road in Dennis. Selectmen voted to issue the first of a three-phase contract Monday night.
The goal of the project is to create pedestrian connectivity, develop a consistent roadway cross-section, and provide Americans with Disability Act accessibility and bicycle accommodations. The board approved the first phase of a three-phase contract totaling $332,958 for the project. The town of Dennis is expected to commit $71,282 for design work, which will include the Division Street intersection at Upper County Road.
Harwich will use $175,658 held by the Cape Cod Commission generated by developments of regional impact projects in town. Department of Public Works Director Lincoln Hooper recommended the town use Chapter 90 or road maintenance funds approved by town meeting to cover the remaining two phases of work.
The town's obligation for the estimated $5.6 million project is to cover the design costs. The town earlier this spring received approval from the Cape Cod Metropolitan Planning Organization to place the project on the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for 2022.
“The primary impetus of this pursuit is that the town of Dennis has an approved mile-long TIP project from Dennis Commons to the Upper County Road intersection, excluding the traffic lights. This project will give that section of Dennisport a new roadway with multimodel accommodations that would certainly make Route 28 in Harwich appear antiquated,” Hooper stated in a letter to selectmen recommending the project be awarded to VHB. Inc.
Senior Project Engineer for VHB, Stephen Rhoads, stated the roadway reconstruction will cover 3,500 feet and will include upgrading of the traffic signals at Division Street, roadway reconstruction, drainage improvements, sidewalks, landscaping and period lighting. VHB, which is also doing the design work for the Dennis project, which is expected to start in spring 2018.
Trish Domigan of VHB said the improvements will be done in compliance with MassDOT's Healthy Transportation Policy, which focuses providing bike lanes and new ADA compliant sidewalks with wheelchair ramps. She said the project will result in major improvements to the F-rated Division Street intersection, which will incorporate the Upper County Road traffic flow.
Town Administrator Christopher Clark said Harwich will be responsible for 89 percent of the roadway design costs and 25 percent of the intersection design. Dennis will cover the additional costs.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Michael MacAskill wanted to be sure owners along this stretch of road are well advised on the plans so as not to repeat the protest raised by abutters on the now-abandonded Pleasant Lake Avenue roadway reconstruction project. He wanted to know how much land would be taken and at what point stakes would be placed in the ground showing the layout of the Route 28 reconstruction.
“People went crazy at the last minute,” MacAskill said of protests that defeated the Pleasant Lake project.
Throughout the presentation on Monday night, town officials and VHB representatives repeatedly stressed continued communication with residents along Route 28. Domigan noted an early walk along the stretch with many abutters who spoke of the needs of the roadway. Improvements, she said, would “not obliterate the character of West Harwich.”
She also said there are varying widths of right of way along the road that could be shifted a little to avoid the need for easements, but a clear picture would not be available until survey work is conducted. She said that the puddling problems would be addressed and Cape Cod berms would be installed in residential areas and granite curbs along retail section. Retail section are described as being from Dennisport to Silver Street.
“There has been good public input into this,” Clark said. “VHB has done a good job incorporating input.”
“I want to avoid any situation like Route 124 (Pleasant Lake Avenue). We've been out in front with these people,” Department of Public Works Director Lincoln Hooper said.
Hooper made it clear this is a state highway under the control of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the town has no control over what happens there. He added, however, that once the work is complete the town would likely sign a contract to maintain the sidewalks.
The board's vote on Monday night includes first phase funding of $175,658 to cover the cost of the design of the 25 percent concept plan and site development, leading into the required public meeting at the 25 percent design stage. He said the funds will get the project underway and funding decisions can be made for the next two phases closer to the construction phase, now scheduled for 2022.