HARWICH — The town received good news from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s project review committee meeting last week: approval of the proposed sidewalk project from Saquatucket Harbor to Harwich Port.
Cape Cod Commission transportation program manager Steven Tupper informed town officials of the approval of the project, which will require waivers from MassDOT’s Complete Streets Program.
The next step is to have the Cape Cod Joint Transportation Committee include the newly eligible project in the queue for the Transportation Improvement Program, which distributes federal and state funding. The town must also begin advancing the project design, which will involve opportunities for public input, Tupper said in an email.
Just when the project will get underway is not evident yet. Approval of the project by MassDOT’s project review committee means it is now eligible for funding through the TIP, but decisions on which projects get funded are made by the Cape Cod Metropolitan Planning Organization and informed by recommendations from the Cape Cod Joint Transportation Committee, Tupper said.
“It is too early to say when the project would begin as it has not yet secured funding on the TIP,” he said. “If this were a typical TIP project, we would be looking out five years or more. The relatively small size of this project may present opportunities to accelerate the timeline.”
“It’s a great accomplishment for the town,” Town Administrator Joseph Powers said. The next step is to bring town staff together to see what has to be done to move forward, he said.
The project has had a lot of community support since it was proposed in 2015. But with MassDOT’s Complete Streets Program requiring sidewalks and bike lanes to be added on both sides of the road when improvements are made, there were concerns about the limited space and the extent of easements that would be necessary. But MassDOT altered the Complete Streets Program criteria allowing for waivers to address projects where bike lanes and sidewalks cannot be installed.
The proposal involves a six-foot sidewalk along the south side of Route 28 from Saquatucket Harbor six-tenths of a mile to the corner of Bank Street in Harwich Port.
The design phase, which would be the town’s financial contribution, was estimated last fall at $225,000 by engineers VHB, Inc. Steve Rhoads of VHB, Inc. projected the construction cost would be $789,000.
The project has been newly posted on the MassDOT project information website with a $985,000 estimated total construction cost. According to the website, the project is in the preliminary design phase.
Town meeting approved $250,000 for the project in FY18, but because it looked like the project had lost momentum because of the Complete Streets Program criteria, the funds were returned to the town’s general fund to offset FY21 budget shortfalls. However, a local property owner has made a $250,000 commitment to the town for the project.