WEST CHATHAM — With the controversial Route 28 reconstruction project set to begin, state officials are downplaying the likelihood of disruptions to local residents and business owners. But while the state’s contractor will not be working during the peak summer months, the same can’t be said for utility contractors.
The project contractor, Falmouth-based Lawrence-Lynch Corp., provided the town with a work schedule earlier this week just prior to a public meeting held Tuesday. This spring, crews will work on underground utilities, drainage systems and fire hydrants before suspending work for the summer, Lawrence-Lynch Project Manager Mike Norton said. In the fall, work will begin on paving the two-lane road – without the current center turning lane – along with installation of street lights, curbs, sidewalks and a shared-use bike path. A key feature of the project, roundabouts at George Ryder and Barn Hill roads, will be installed in the spring of 2020, and crews will focus on the final pavement and landscaping details that fall.
MassHighway Project Manager Tom Currier said Tuesday that the two-year project will not require road detours, and two lanes of traffic will be kept open at all times, except for brief one- or two-hour periods. Work will happen weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and access will be ensured for all businesses in the area.
By agreement with the town, work will be allowed in the late spring between Memorial Day and June 30, but only on the north side of the road.
“The businesses are on the south side. We don’t want to interrupt their work,” Currier said.
But starting next month and continuing through next fall, apparently without breaking for the summer, telephone, cable and other crews will be relocating more than a dozen utility poles in the project area. Resident Elaine Gibbs said she is “infuriated” that the utility work didn’t start earlier, since even a single utility truck can cause traffic problems in the summer.
“I cannot imagine the congestion that’s going to be caused at the height of our season,” she said.
Cliff Berner of Oyster River Boatyard said he is worried about access during construction for his over-sized boat trailers, which regularly drive to and from their off-site storage lot off Route 137. “We put a lot of traffic through this roadway,” he said.
Nearby resident Arthur Spruch said he and his neighbors worry that the construction will prompt many motorists to use the private roads in his neighborhood as unofficial detours. “We’re going to have to end up repairing our own roads,” he said.
Some of those concerns will be answered by the temporary traffic control plan included in the project, engineer Robbie Burgess of Howard Stein Hudson told the group. The plan will include “a full toolbox” for the contractor to use to keep traffic flowing, including portable signs, changeable message signs, temporary pavement markings and a requirement that at least 11-foot travel lanes be maintained during construction. Further steps are in place to ensure that pedestrians, including those who need handicap accommodations, will have full access during the project, Burgess said.
“We understand the importance of being able to travel through the work zone while the work’s underway,” he said.
Responding to a question by resident Stephen Buckley, Chatham Principal Planner Terry Whalen said there will be a special web page linked from the town’s home page which will provide regularly updated information about traffic changes, the project schedule and other announcements. The portal will also provide a means for residents to submit concerns to be forwarded to the contractor. Buckley urged the project leaders to also use social media, text messaging and other means to keep the public informed.
West Chatham resident Tom Wilson said he looks forward to the roundabouts as a means of slowing vehicles that pass through the area at high speed. “I’m concerned about walking on this stretch of road with my grandchildren,” he said. Slowing traffic will also “increase the visibility for businesses in the area,” Wilson predicted.
Resident and business owner Doug Meservey said he is worried that the project will disrupt business at his family’s Shell station at the corner of George Ryder Road, along with the former D’Angelo’s restaurant location, which he recently leased. Meservey said he lost “millions of dollars” and a business as a result of traffic disruptions associated with sewer work on Route 28 several years ago.
Currier said all businesses will be able to remain open throughout the entirety of the project. MassHighway engineer Mike McGrath, who lives in Dennis, said he remembers the disruption from the sewer work, and this will have far less impact on traffic flow.
“They were putting pipes 25 feet in the ground,” he said. This project is comparatively minor, and because crews are reducing the number of lanes from three to two, there will be ample room for traffic to pass around construction areas, he added.
While MassDOT often hears public concerns about roundabouts during the planning phases, “when we’re all done, we get compliments,” McGrath said. “It is an improvement.”
“I think it’s going to be a beautiful project when it’s done,” Currier said. “You couldn’t have a better contractor building it for you,” he added.
Several residents who have opposed the roadway project from the beginning voiced those concerns again at Tuesday’s meeting.
“The community has never been for this project,” David Burns said.
“We had no safety problems,” Gloria Freeman added. “We will now.”
Following a discussion about the project Monday evening, the board of selectmen wrote a letter to MassDOT stressing the importance of maintaining access during construction, and expressing interest in enhanced streetlights and landscaping and the possibility of using a material other than black pavement for the sidewalks. The town acknowledges that it would be responsible for additional costs, selectmen Chairman Dean Nicastro said. The town will finalize its requests and forward them to the state within the next 30 days, he said.