Electric Car Charging Stations May Be In Chatham's Future

By: Tim Wood

The town has applied for a state grant to help fund a more than $1 million project to upgrade sidewalks, relocate the chamber of commerce information booth and make improvements to the town offices parking lot, which may include electric car charging stations. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Electric car charging stations in downtown Chatham?

The town could become one of the first in the area to offer the convenience to electric car owners as part of a proposed $1 million makeover of the town offices parking lot. There are currently about two dozen electric car charging stations on the Cape, although most are private, located at inns, campgrounds and car dealerships.

The detail is included in a state MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant filed by the town earlier this month.

“It seemed like a good idea,” said Natural Resources Department Director Robert Duncanson. “It's becoming a critical component of today's infrastructure.”

The overall projects includes upgrading the parking lot and sidewalks, relocating the chamber of commerce information booth and addressing drainage that empties into Oyster Pond. It's proposed to be done in conjunction with upgrading sewer mains along Main Street between Cross Street and Chatham Bars Avenue, and could begin as soon as this winter.

The grant seeks $890,000 for construction costs, with the town contributing $199,920 for design, engineering and permitting. The sewer and drainage work will be covered by already approved funding as part of the town's wastewater management program.

The project was before the board of selectmen earlier this year and was sent back to the drawing board over cost concerns. It will go back before the board before moving forward, Duncanson said.

The project involves several components, all of which are being brought together so they can be done at the same time the sewer work is scheduled. At the same time the road will be excavated to replace sewer mains that date from the town's original sewer system – almost 50 years ago – it made sense to also bring sidewalks into compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements – with new paving and curbs – and also resurface, make repairs and add new LED lighting to the town offices parking lot, with 85 spaces the main downtown parking area.

“That way we're not coming back later and doing the roadwork again,” said Duncanson. “Get it done all at once.”

Problems with the old sewer lines “started the whole thing,” he said. Just two weeks ago the sewer department had to make emergency repairs to the line that jogs down Chatham Bars Avenue from Main Street. The line is so flat that once a month the department has to jet it out to force material to move through the main. The only way to improve the flow is to give the main a greater pitch, which then also requires changes to the mains on Main Street. Both lines are also undersized; when additional sewer mains are installed to the east sometime in the future, as called for in the town's wastewater plan, those pipes would have to be upgraded anyway, Duncanson explained.

There have been recent drainage problems in the town offices parking lot and the building itself; the basement flooded during the heavy rains a few weeks ago. All of the runoff from the parking lot flows into pipes that discharge into Oyster Pond, which has had water quality problems for decades that are tied into the downtown drainage system. Much of that has been upgraded, but there's still more to address, Duncanson said.

“This is just another piece of the Oyster Pond puzzle that we've been working on for the last 20 years, in small segments,” he said.

The chamber of commerce book will be relocated farther back from the road to allow a wider sidewalk. The bottleneck created by the booth and its granite stoop narrows the sidewalk and creates congestion during the summer.

According to the grant, the electric car charging stations are designed to “better serve this growing need and to advance the town's sustainability along with realigning parking spaces to maximize parking efficiency.”

The grant further states that the infrastructure upgrades will improve safety for residents and visitors and “provide an economic push for the downtown business owners, many of which rely on the seasonal tourism economy to stay in business.”

Design and engineering for the sewer portion of the project is underway, Duncanson said. Design and engineering funds for the infrastructure improvements will likely come from existing road and sidewalk money.

While moving ahead with the project will depend on further public discussions and the approval of selectmen, Duncanson said because it is funded separately, the sewer work will move ahead, possibly as soon as this winter in order to avoid disruption to downtown businesses. A decision on whether the rest of the project moves ahead at the same time will also depend on the grant, and the town won't know if it is approved until October. The town's recent signing of the Community Commonwealth Compact may improve the chances that the grant is approved.

Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, and Cape and Islands Senator Julie Cyr, D-Truro, recently wrote to Jay Ash, secretary of the executive office of housing and economic development, in support of the grant application. The project, the legislators said in the Aug. 21 letter, “provides economic benefits by reducing stormwater pollution discharging in to Oyster Pond” and will “dovetail and coordinate resources as it will be implemented and constructed as part of a town-wide sewer project being funded through the MassDEP state revolving fund program.”