Town Seeks Sidewalk Grant For Harwich Center

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: sidewalks

HARWICH — The town is continuing to push for grant funding for a major sidewalk and crosswalk improvement project extending from the community center on Oak Street to the cultural center on Sisson Road. The town this week submitted a request for a $800,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The town had sought an ADA Public Municipality Transition Project grant through the Massachusetts Office of Disability for $250,000 to make improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks in Harwich Center, but it was not approved.

Harwich Elementary School Principal Mary Oldach and the Monomoy Regional School District also applied for a Safe Routes To School grant through the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to improve sidewalks, which are not Americans with Disabilities Act compliant along Sisson Road, Parallel Street, South Street and Main Street. To date there has been no decision on that grant application.

But Matt Hart, chairman of the accessibility rights committee, who filed the ADA Public Municipality Transition Project grant application, has continued the effort to seek funds for sidewalk and crosswalk improvements in Harwich Center.

Hart told selectmen last week he has completed the community block grant application and it has been filed with the Department of Housing and Community Development, which is overseeing distribution of $22 million in federal funds for small community grants in 2019. The grant seeks $800,000, with a matching commitment from the town of $90,000 to complete the work.

The work done on the ADA grant application included conducting a municipal facility ADA self-assessment study identifying issues of non-compliance in town, Hart said, including the sidewalks and crosswalks. Hart said the block grant application was “a complicated process.”

“I think we have a better than average chance,” Hart said of receiving the grant. He said it could serve to “spearhead revitalization in Harwich Center.”

If funded, the project would include removing and replacing the existing sidewalks from the community center to the cultural center, including curb cuts and crosswalks. The town is applying for $800,000 under the “ADA Barrier Removal” portion of the block grant for the disabled, accessibility challenged, young, old and visitors of Harwich Center.

The funding request also includes the installation of two traffic lights at the Main Street crosswalks for improved pedestrian safety and traffic flow. Hart pointed out funding for the planning, engineering and design had previously been provided by the town and the estimated project expenses were determined by VHB Engineering. The project is “shovel ready,” he added.

There is a significant need for safe pedestrian accessibility and crosswalks for Harwich senior citizens, youngsters and those with disabilities, including disabled veterans. The Harwich Elementary School, Monomoy Regional High School, Brooks Free Library and Brooks Park are in Harwich Center, with hundreds of students and adults walking through the surrounding areas attending athletic, sports and crafts fair activities. These, together with the year-round commercial, residential and senior citizen establishments in the center, makes for a robust community, according to the grant application.

“During weekends and the summer months the number of people in Harwich along with the additional vehicle traffic through Harwich Center increases by at least three times the regular off-season days,” the application reads. “The poor conditions of the existing Harwich Center sidewalks, crosswalks and missing traffic signals are a critical issue and an accident waiting to happen.”

Selectmen endorsed the latest application seeking funding for improvements to Harwich Center.