HARWICH — Officials are considering removing parking along the north side of Main Street in Harwich Center and shifting the travel lane to accommodate business on the south side of the road.
That was one suggestion that came out of a Jan. 13 gathering with stakeholders and town officials as Town Engineer Griffin Ryder works on a Winter Shared Streets and Spaces grant application to be filed with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation later this month.
If the grant is approved, the town could receive up to $300,000 to implement changes in the village on a temporary basis. Should the adjustments prove beneficial to commerce, the designs could provide a road map to permanent improvements, said Ryder.
Among the changes being examined are providing additional pedestrian and outdoor dining spaces; widening and establishing Americans with Disabilities Act compliant crosswalks; altering parallel parking spaces; and instillation of painted bump-out spaces and painted pedestrian refuge islands in the road, which will also serve to direct and slow traffic moving through the village.
The grant program was developed to support public health, safety, mobility and renewed commerce in communities adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. MassDOT has a $10 million budget for implementation of the grant program.
The group looked at preliminary plans drafted by Toole Design, Inc., the firm provided by MassDOT to help shape the Harwich application. One plan sought more meaningful public space on the south side of the street, and the other retained parking on the north side, which would mean a reduction on the south side of the street.
“The businesses don’t want to relinquish parking on the south side,” Seal Pub owner Bob Young said.
There is only one business on the north side of that stretch of road, DPW highways maintenance manager Chris Nickerson said. The better plan is to remove the north side parking and relocate the travel lanes north to the edge of the sidewalk curb, providing more space and retaining parking on the south side, he said.
“All of the commerce is on the south side and people don’t want to cross the road.” Nickerson said.
The road is 35 feet wide. With two 11-foot lanes, removal of the north side parking would leave 13 additional feet for parking and expanding sidewalk space on the south side, Nickerson said. It was a concept that resonated with the group.
Young was particularly interested in improving access from the bike trail a block north on Pleasant Lake Avenue. But Ryder said the scope of the grant does not cover changes along the section of the road to the bike trail. He suggested a sign directing bikers to the village. Young also pushed for one of the parking spaces to be set aside for a bike rack.
The additional space on the south side could be used for an outside dining area with tables, chairs, planters and heaters as a means of assisting commerce. The need for sidewalk improvements along the south side of the road were also highlighted, but the cost associated with that ended the discussion.
Ryder said traffic directional painted lanes on the road could also serve as pedestrian refuge islands in the area of the crosswalks. Wider crosswalks would be located in front of town hall and across Banks Street, providing greater COVID-19 social distance separation. The crosswalks at the Main Street and Pleasant Lake Avenue intersection would also be expanded. New ADA accessible sidewalk connections would be installed at the crosswalks.
Brooks Free Library Director Ginny Hewitt asked that the road improvements be extended beyond Bank Street to Oak Street as a means of curtailing vehicle speed coming into the village.
There were a number of locations where painted and decorative bump-outs could be added to channel traffic, including at the two major intersections. DPW director Lincoln Hooper said painted bump-outs would require maintenance; concrete prints would better serve the purpose. But Ryder said these are temporary measures, maybe for a year, to determine if they work.
“A number of communities are using this as a pilot program to see how it works. If it does, then you plan to make it permanent,” Ryder said.
The town is planning to file the grant application in time to meet the Jan. 29 deadline.
Town Engineer Griffin Ryder and DPW highway maintenance manager Chris Nickerson discuss Harwich Center roadway adjustments that could be made under a Winter Shared Streets and Spaces grant the town will seek. DPW Director Lincoln Hooper, Seal Pub owner Bob Young, Brooks Free Library Director Ginny Hewitt and Selectman Ed McManus also participated in the discussions. WILLIAM F. GALVIN PHOTO