Harwich officials learned this week that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation project review committee gave the green light to a sidewalk along Route 28 between Saquatucket Harbor and Bank Street. It's about time.
Walking along the heavily traveled roadway is dangerous, as is biking. There's little space on either side of the pavement to scoot off the road. A pedestrian path between the harbor and Harwich Port has long been a goal of many in town, and will create a link that will foster the community's culture and economic resources. And it will be a great walk, passing by one of the most scenic vistas in town overlooking Wychmere Harbor.
Actual construction of sidewalks on the six-tenths of a mile stretch is a bit off. There are several hurdles to clear: waivers are needed from the state's Complete Streets Program so that the sidewalk can be on just one side of the road (the south side) and bike lanes aren't mandated, and the project must be added to the Cape Cod Joint Transportation Program. The diversion of $250,000 previously appropriated to cover design and engineering costs (which are the town's responsibility; state and federal funds pay for the construction) to offset the budget shortfall due to the pandemic was a serious problem. A local property owner, however, has offered to donate the funds. Depending on how that is handled, the money may have to be allocated anyway and offset by the donation. If so, officials should make that a priority.
Encouraging physical activity and promoting two of the town's most important resources (Saquatucket and Harwich Port) are goals worthy of the efforts required, and should be a priority for town officials.