HARWICH — The good news is work at the intersection of Routes 137 and 39 is nearly finished. The bad news is that work will continue north on Route 137, necessitating several detours and closures over the coming weeks.
Access to the commercial area in East Harwich has been difficult, to say the least, as the town works on installing sewer mains. On Monday officials gathered to work out a traffic control plan for the upcoming work, attempting to reassure business owners that customers will continue to be able to access shops and restaurants despite detours and closures.
“You can get to your favorite restaurant, shop or business,” Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cyndi Williams announced at that start of the session. “Yes, East Harwich is open for business. Don’t be intimidated by detour signs. East Harwich is open for business.”
Work taking place there has been centered on the intersection of Routes 137 and 39, and at times both roads have been blocked. The roads not only serve area businesses, but are also the main access from Route 6 into Chatham.
The good news is the work in the intersection is just about finished, Abby Rose of the contractor Robert B Our Company told selectmen Monday night. She said 41 percent of the contract work is complete, including sewering the deepest section of the main roadway.
“The hardest part of the project is behind us,” Rose said.
However, sewer construction will begin later this week on the north section of Route 137 heading toward Exit 11 on Route 6. Interim Town Administrator Joseph Powers said there will be four construction zones between the Route 39 intersection and Exit 11. He introduced a traffic control plan that he said is “in the best interests of the merchants and residents directly impacted by this work and the taxpayers of the town of Harwich in general,”
Work in the various zones will require complete and partial detours, night work and extended work hours. A major detour would send traffic east on Pleasant Bay Road to the intersection of Route 39 and then southwest to reach the commercial district.
“I was hoping we had worked out details, letting them (customers) know we’re open, instead of an intimidating atmosphere,” Paul Fox of Harwich Paint and Decorating said. His business is entering the busy time of the year when customers increase to more than 1,000 a day. He emphasized the importance of keeping traffic flow along that section of Route 137.
“A detour along Pleasant Bay Road...might as well be sending them to Truro,” Fox said.
Sean Morris of RPM Carpets, also located along that stretch of Route 137, said sending trucks, up to 60 feet, which supply his business to the Pleasant Bay Road intersection, one of the more dangerous intersections in town, could be an issue. He urged a police detail be located there to address traffic issues. Morris also said he would seek to work with the suppliers to use smaller trucks and develop alternative routes.
“If I can’t get trucks in, we don’t have product and I can’t service our customers,” Morris said.
Paul Niles, the director of the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School, said heavy traffic flows to the school from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in the morning and again around 3 p.m. in the afternoon, including up to 45 staff vehicles and 75 to 100 parent vehicles, a couple of large school buses and a few smaller buses. He requested those heavy vehicle periods be accommodated.
“We’ve struggled with getting work done and working with the businesses,” Rose said, assuring owners that at no time would two accesses be blocked from customer entrance.
Selectman Stephen Ford said the work will have a major economic impact on businesses. Selectmen agreed a shift to night work could mitigate some of that impact. Rose also requested an extension of daytime hours into early evening to accelerate completion of that stretch.
Zone one work could begin on Thursday from the north side of the Routes 137/39 intersection to Auston Road. That section of road would be closed to traffic and the detour would use Auston Road. This would be daytime work and only take a few days, Rose said.
Zone two extends from Auston Road to between the Lighthouse Charter School and Town Paint Plaza. The work could be done with a partial detour with one lane open heading south and vehicles driving on the sidewalk and shoulder. But the preferred plan is to do night work under a full detour for the safety of the work crew. It was suggested work would take place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Zone three, extending from Sherwood Road to just past Round Cove Road, poses other issues. It is the deepest section of road for sewer main installation and there are no means of safe vehicle passage since the pipes will be installed in the middle of the road. The Pleasant Bay Road detour would be used. It was suggested work in that zone be put off until next winter when traffic impacts would be a lot lighter.
The fourth zone, extending from the Lighthouse Charter School to Sherwood Road, could be done with a partial detour, allowing traffic inbound from Exit 11 to drive on the road shoulder, with outbound traffic using Route 39 to Pleasant Bay Road to Route 137.
Former selectman Julie Kavanagh expressed concern about closing the road completely and the use of “that horrific intersection” at Pleasant Bay Road and Route 39. She also recommended a police detail be there.
Selectmen agreed to extend the work hours to 7 p.m. for zone one and two. Because selectmen wanted to notify the public of plans to conduct night work for zone two, they agreed to hold that discussion in the March 16 board meeting. Rose said they will need that vote by Monday at the latest. At that meeting, the board will also look at putting off the zone three work, which includes a complete closure, until next fall.
Selectman Donald Howell also urged signs defining detours be more specific in telling people whether they can get to certain destinations, such as Route 6 and the commercial zone. Rose said they would work on signage improvements.
Upcoming Chatham Sewer Work
Just down the road in Chatham, Old Queen Anne Road west of the Route 137 intersection will continue to be closed for the next few weeks. Traffic traveling east on Old Queen Anne Road will be detoured down Cemetery Road to either Route 137, when it is open, or Church Street. Work hours will be extended from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and officials stress that access to The Corner Store will remain open, either from Route 137 or Old Queen Anne Road, depending on where construction is happening.