CHATHAM – The town's sidewalks have long been a topic of discussion, alternately causing controversy and concern due to the absence of them in some locations and the poor condition of others.
The topic came up again at last week's summer town meeting, eliciting a promise by one town official that a comprehensive plan to upgrade the town's sidewalks was in the works.
Officials cautioned, however, that now all sidewalks will be included in the plan. Some are outside of the town's jurisdiction.
Main Street summer resident Arnold Mazur said sidewalks along Main Street, from Shore Road all the way west to Route 137, are in terrible shape. He's been here 30 years and can't remember them ever being repaired.
“It's not only an eyesore but it's a detriment to everyone, as well as a danger,” he said.
Some sections of sidewalk have been repaired in the past few years, including within the area from Chatham Bars Avenue to Shore Road, said Director of Public Works Tom Temple. He is in the process of putting together a comprehensive plan to upgrade sidewalks throughout the town, and bring intersections into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which he said will be done over the next several months.
There are already several plans in the works that include sidewalk upgrades. While selectmen rejected a plan to put sidewalks along Stage Harbor Road, sidewalks are slated to be added to Bridge Street as part of the road's reconstruction, Temple said. Officials are also looking at obtaining an easement to place a crosswalk near the intersection of Bridge and Main streets, similar to the crosswalk placed at the north end of the Lighthouse Overlook parking area a few years ago, he said.
Sewer work planned along Main Street from Cross Street to Chatham Bars Avenue will also include reconstruction of the sidewalk, Temple said. Funds for the work were included in the $31 million sewer funding article approved at May's annual town meeting.
Upgrades to sidewalks along Route 28, from the rotary west, are more tenuous.
As a state highway, Route 28 falls under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which has sole authority over the sidewalks, said Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson. Over the past 30 years, the town has had “multiple” discussions with state highway officials about upgrading sidewalks along the road.
“Every time we get close, the money goes someplace else,” Duncanson said. State officials know that the sidewalks are a priority for the town, but until there's a funding commitment, residents are not likely to see substantial improvements. “It's their responsibility,” he said of the state agency.
A call to Temple to narrow down the timeframe for the sidewalk study was not returned.
Sensing that the issue was likely to be ongoing, Moderator William Litchfield suggested town officials plan on delivering an update on sidewalks at next year's summer town meeting.