Signs Get High Priority In Orleans Complete Street Plan

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Municipal Planning and Zoning

ORLEANS – Residents have until Sunday, Nov. 22 to offer their comments to town officials or Cape Cod Commission staff regarding the Orleans Complete Streets Prioritization Plan.

Lev Malakhoff, commission transportation planner, recommends that people who wish to comment should first look at the materials pertaining to the Complete Streets plan on the commission's website.

On Nov. 5, the commission held a virtual public workshop to hear Orleans residents’ views on which projects in the town should be prioritized. Forty-three projects have been given preliminary ranks “for discussion purposes.” The rankings are based on points awarded on a benefit/cost score scale running from eight to 5864.

Steven Tupper, commission transportation program manager, gave a PowerPoint presentation explaining the overall aims of Complete Streets before dividing the approximately 34 participants — town officials, CCC staff and residents — into three groups for discussions. Based on notes taken during those discussions as well as subsequent public input, commission staff will finalize the priorities list and submit it to the the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. After the MassDOT approves the list, the town can then apply for grants of up to $400,000.

“This is a big step for the town,” Tupper said.

The Complete Streets funding program is run through MassDOT, which defines a “complete street” as one “that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes — walking, biking, transit and vehicles — for people of all ages and abilities.” MassDOT provides technical assistance and funding. The first step in applying for funding is to create a Complete Streets policy and prioritization plan, according to the MassDOT website. Complete Streets “help promote more livable communities.” Improvements to existing streets may be large (as in widening a street to add a bicycle lane) or small (as in improving lighting or even tweaking the timing of a traffic signal).

The town can apply for up to $400,000 for any project or projects. In winter 2018 the town applied for and received a MassDOT technical assistance grant to develop a Complete Streets plan. The town then hired the commission to help.

In creating the list of ranked priorities, the commission looked at a variety of issues such as statistics on accidents, including those with bicycles and pedestrian involvement, areas with high walking demands and areas without sidewalks. During a workshop in December, the commission set up maps on tables and easels and, based on input from the workshop, boiled the “whole university of projects” down to 43, Malakhoff said. These projects include adding or rebuilding sidewalks, rebuilding intersections, building multi-use paths, adding bicycle racks downtown and adding facilities to beaches. The commission then looked at the projects’ compatibility with community goals, the environment and more. The group came up with a preliminary cost and a preliminary ranking of the projects.

The most ambitious project on the list is the construction of a bridge over Route 6 for the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The cost of that project is $6,758,000, yet the benefit/cost score is merely 8, which drops the project to the bottom of the list, with a ranking of 43. In contrast, a small project improving accommodations on West Road at the Cape Cod Rail Trail for $8,000 received a benefit/cost score of 5,864, ranking it number one on the list. Whatever the overall cost of a project, MassDOT will award a maximum of $400,000 per town, or a mere fraction of some of the larger projects. MassDOT has two annual funding cycles, which means that once a project is approved, funding will come within a few months.

State highways such as Routes 6, 6A and 28 are ineligible for funds.

During the breakout groups, Peter Van Oot of the Orleans Conservation Trust said the town needs better signage on Skaket Beach Road for bicyclists who are leaving Orleans Center.

“It’s an informational problem,” he said. Cyclists can be “kind of panicked.”

Two projects are proposed for Skaket Beach Road, a “traffic calming measures” at $203,000 and new shared-use paths for $736,000.

After participants returned from the break-out rooms, Tupper characterized the discussions as “lively” ones that stressed the importance of good signage throughout the town. A multi-use path running from Beach Road and Main Street from Route 28 to Nauset Beach is a popular wish although it would cost $3,476,000 and is ranked 126th. Commission planner Martha Hevenor added that her group felt that perhaps sidewalks were not ranked as highly as they should be.

To add your thoughts to the Complete Streets proposed projects, visit capecodcommission.org and go to Orleans Complete Streets. After looking at the draft project prioritization list, answer the following questions: “Do the preliminary rankings match the community’s needs/priorities?” and “Are there any projects missing from the preliminary rankings?”

Email your thoughts to George Meservey, Orleans Director of Planning and Community Development, at gmeservey@town.orleans.ma.us or to Malakhoff at lmalakhoff@capecodcommission.org.