Fish Pier Bulkhead Replacement Begins Soon; Includes Pedestrian Safety Improvements

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Commercial fishing and shellfishing , Tourism , Waterways

The sagging south jog bulkhead will be replaced, and a new walkway will be installed on the back edge of the parking lot to keep pedestrians out of traffic. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM — As part of a multi-decade plan to make improvements to the town’s waterfront infrastructure, the select board last week authorized the use of $3.97 million to rebuild the bulkhead at the south jog of the fish pier. The project also includes a new walkway designed to improve pedestrian safety at the popular facility.

“This project was identified in the 2016 study that looked at the entire fish pier facility,” Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson told the select board last week. The bulkhead is aging and starting to fail, and its replacement is being packaged with two pedestrian safety projects in an effort to save money, Duncanson told the select board.

The deck and stairs adjacent to the wharfinger’s office are in need of replacement, and the new structures will make it easier and safer for pedestrians to reach the lower lot from the upper parking area. But not all visitors to the fish pier use the stairs, Duncanson noted; a number of people walk down Barcliff Ave. Extension, a narrow, steep roadway used by 18-wheelers servicing the fish packing house.

“They do so on a regular basis, pushing baby strollers and wheelchairs and all kinds of things because they don’t want to deal with the stairs at the wharfinger building,” he said. The project includes a new sidewalk to allow better separation between vehicles and pedestrians along the roadway.

A brightly painted crosswalk connects the base of the stairs with the entrance to the new fish pier observation deck, but pedestrians often stray outside the crosswalk, especially to reach the charter boats that use the south jog. That brings them directly through the busy lower parking lot.

“Unfortunately, I suspect it is only a matter of time before we have some incident down there where somebody is injured – and hopefully nothing worse than that,” Duncanson said.

To that end, the project also includes installation of a new sidewalk around the perimeter of the parking lot, keeping pedestrians out of the path of trucks and other vehicles.

Bids for the project were recently opened, and the low bidder was MAS Building and Bridge, the Norfolk-based company known locally for installing the Muddy Creek Bridge several years ago. MAS bid $3.64 million on the job and was among three companies that submitted bids in that immediate price range. The bid does not include the cost of engineering, an owners’ project manager, the Barcliff Ave. Extension sidewalk add-on, or a construction contingency of nearly $275,000 designed to safeguard against cost increases. ”While we’re comfortable with the contingency, we’re not anticipating having to spend it,” Duncanson said.

All told, the project is expected to cost $4,976,010. The state’s Seaport Economic Council has pledged a $1 million grant to support the work, leaving the town to pay the remaining $3,976,010 from its $11.3 million waterfront bond authorization passed in 2017. The select board voted unanimously to authorize the use of those funds, and construction is expected to begin next month. The goal, Duncanson said, is “that everything is completed by next fishing season, or the beginning of June,” he said.

The authorization includes $500,000 for the Barcliff Ave. Extension sidewalk, which is less than the contractor estimated for the job. Officials are revising the sidewalk plans and will “hopefully come up with a design that will reduce costs considerably” from the first estimate of over $700,000, Duncanson said.

The waterfront bond authorization has already funded a number of key projects in town, and now has just under $2.7 million remaining of the initial $11.3 million. Select board Chair Jeffrey Dykens noted that a number of waterfront projects remain to be completed, including a shelter building at the trap dock, work at Ryder’s Cove, Little Mill Pond and Crow’s Pond – and a new shellfish upweller at 90 Bridge St.

“My concern is just running out of money for the projects that we want to do,” Dykens said.

“More than likely, just because of the passage of time and the escalation of costs for manpower and materiel, some of these projects may need some supplemental appropriation,” Duncanson replied. The town has additional sources of money to pursue, including funds from the waterway user fee account, which now has just over $1.5 million. The various projects can also seek grants from the state or other entities, he said.

“We’re trying to take the original bond money and leverage it as far as we can with these other funding sources,” Duncanson said.