Bike Path Project Would Boost Safety On George Ryder Road

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Roads, highways and transportation

Cyclists and pedestrians share the current narrow lane on the shoulders of George Ryder Road. COURTESY HSH

Future Phase Would Connect To West Chatham

CHATHAM — The bikeways committee is peddling a plan to improve safety by separating vehicles from bike trail users along George Ryder Road.

The committee endorsed a plan to build a separate path alongside the road to carry pedestrians and cyclists through the Old Colony Rail Trail without requiring them to mix with vehicle traffic. Currently, the bike path follows the road for 1,130 feet on a stretch of George Ryder Road between the town hall annex and a point south of Katie Ford Road, where it enters the woods south of the airport. The stretch has been the site of a few accidents and, according to nearby residents, some near-misses.

Committee Chair John O’Toole said the project is an outgrowth of the town’s bicycle master plan, drafted several years ago with help from the Cape Cod Commission, which sought “to identify locations that seem to have some risk of exposure of accidents or collisions.” A few spots were identified, including George Ryder Road. At the time, the West Chatham roadway reconfiguration was being planned, and a key feature was a multi-use bike path along Main Street through the village center.

“So we started looking at what we might do to somehow connect the Old Colony Rail Trail to that new multi-use path,” he said. They asked MassDOT whether a connector might be included in the West Chatham project, but state officials declined to do so.

Using $25,000 in Community Preservation Act funds, the town hired the engineering firm of Howard Stein Hudson to study the problem and produce alternatives, and the consultant’s final report was issued late last month. Notably, it separates the concept into two projects: the connection to West Chatham and the completion of the path along George Ryder road. O’Toole said the West Chatham connector was likely to take more than two years to design, permit and build, which would have been longer than the time allowed under the MassTrails grant program.

“We were very conscious of where we would find the funding,” he said. MassTrails offers grants of up to $300,000 for “critical network connections of regional or statewide significance,” and the program requires a match from the local community of at least 20 percent of the entire project cost. The town will apply for a MassTrails grant, and O’Toole said the bikeways committee is applying for another Community Preservation Act grant to cover the match.

The consultant proposed two options for the George Ryder Road stretch, the first of which continued to have the bike path on the road shoulder, with additional signs and markings. “It was not a really significant change,” O’Toole said. The bikeways committee favored Option 2, a separate off-road path running between the crosswalk at the airport and the south entrance of the rail trail, running along the airport parking lot and south past the VFW post. The proposal is going before the airport commission shortly for consideration. Only relatively minor construction will be needed to build the path, with no need for land takings or permanent easements. “There appears to be plenty of room within the existing right-of-way,” he said.

Engineers set a conceptual construction cost of $310,000, plus a $55,000 design fee, for the preferred alternative.

The deadline for the MassTrails application is Feb. 1, O’Toole said. If the Community Preservation Committee supports the application for matching funds, voters would consider it at the next annual town meeting. But the CPA grant would only be spent if the town received its MassTrails grant, he said.

O’Toole said his committee is focused on advancing the George Ryder Road path, and has no timetable on when the West Chatham connector might be revisited. In its report, Howard Stein Hudson proposed three alternatives for the connector; the preferred choice is an extension of a shared-use path along George Ryder Road south to the roundabout at Route 28, where it would link up with the new shared-use path there. The project would cost an estimated $360,000 and would require the removal of a number of trees, the installation of two retaining walls, and the relocation of various utility lines.

The engineers also studied the possibility of cutting a new spur from the rail trail behind the town’s animal control building to connect the trail to the shared-use path along the edge of the Ocean State Job Lot parking lot. The option would provide more separation of vehicles and bike trail users along a portion of the road, but also requires a steep slope that would not easily meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the engineers found. The spur option would also require approval by the FAA because of its proximity to the airport.