Update Coming March 5 On West Chatham Roadway Project

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: West Chatham , Traffic

Traffic in West Chatham.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM A contractor has been hired, some of the preliminary utility work has been done, and the West Chatham roadway redesign project is expected to get underway in earnest this spring, officials say.

The $4.2 million project includes the installation of roundabouts on Route 28 at Barn Hill Road and George Ryder Road, along with new sidewalks, crosswalks and a multi-use bike lane. A more controversial portion of the plan involves the removal of the current center turning lane.

MassHighway has hired Falmouth-based contractor Lawrence Lynch Corp. to carry out the work, and a pre-construction meeting took place at MassDOT District Five headquarters in Taunton two weeks ago. The meeting involved state highway officials and the contractor, town officials and utility representatives.

“The contractor has not yet submitted a schedule for the project at this time,” MassDOT spokeswoman Judi Riley said last week. “However, the District anticipates that the work will begin in the spring.”

Chatham Principal Planner and Operations Administrator Terry Whalen said there have been few developments since the contractor was hired.

“The next real milestone is the public information meeting,” he said. The session will be held on March 5 at 7 p.m. at the town hall annex.  The public meeting has been delayed; it was originally scheduled to take place in November or December, Whalen noted.

While MassDOT specifies the date that construction must be complete, and also sets the moratorium that keeps crews from working during peak summer months, the construction schedule itself will be set by Lawrence Lynch, he noted.

“The means and methods are up to the contractor,” he said. Town officials had stressed that the contract time determination previously released by state officials was just a planning tool. Still, work is expected to take two years, with construction happening in the spring and fall of 2019 and 2020. Work is not expected to take place between June 30 and Labor Day of each year. The exact details of the schedule will be released at the upcoming public meeting, Whalen stressed.

Construction crews seen in the area in recent months were working on gas mains, using plans designed to be compatible with the West Chatham roadway redesign. Other utility work remains to be done.

“Obviously, you’ve got electric, phone and cable,” Whalen said.

Answering concerns about traffic congestion and access to businesses in the area, state officials have stipulated that no work will be done on the south side of the road – where most businesses are located – during the month of June in 2019 and 2020.

Officials have said that there will be no traffic detours during the work day, and two-way traffic will be maintained through the area most of the time. There are not expected to be restrictions to businesses for extended periods of time, and two-way traffic will be restored at the end of each work day.

The project will include a strong public outreach component designed to keep motorists informed about traffic impacts and to make sure that West Chatham property owners know what to expect, Whalen said.

“There will be a lot of communication between the contractor and the abutters throughout the process,” he said. Once the work is underway, residents can also contact the town’s public works department to ask questions. But Whalen said he believes a number of the most pressing questions will be addressed in the upcoming informational meeting.

The West Chatham roadway redesign has been in the works for more than a decade. Though the current project application was filed in 2011, the town and county have been studying ways to improve traffic flow through the area since 2006. The goal of the current plan is to eliminate certain types of vehicle crashes at the two key intersections, slowing traffic to between 15 and 20 mph at the roundabouts, while providing better access for pedestrians and cyclists. Opponents say the work is not needed and will disrupt businesses.

This article has been changed to include the date of the public forum.