CHATHAM – The long-awaited replacement of the south bulkhead at the fish pier begins this week.
The nearly $5 million project, in the planning stages for several years, will necessitate the closure to the public of the south portion of the lower parking area through the spring. The closure begins Friday.
It's been some 40 years since the bulkhead along the south parking has been replaced, and in that time sand has seeped out into the pier basin and the harsh conditions have taken their toll on the structure. At one point the tarmac on the south jog collapsed, one of a number of instances that prompted officials to examine shoring up the facility.
The bulkhead, from the packing building along the south parking area to the south jog, will be replaced with new material designed to last 50 years or more.
The project includes several improvements designed to enhance pedestrian safety at the pier, one of the town's most popular tourist attractions. The deck and stairs next to the wharfinger's office will be replaced, and a new walkway will direct pedestrians heading for charter boats and other vessels that dock at the south jog around the perimeter of the fishermen's parking area. This is designed to keep people from straying into travel lanes and the parking area, which is busy during the summer with fishermen's vehicles and trucks from the companies that lease the fish packing building.
A new sidewalk will be built along the Barcliff Avenue Extension roadway that leads from Shore Road to the lower parking lot. Although officials constantly try to direct pedestrian to use the stairs by the wharfinger's building, many, as well as bikers and families with strollers, often head to the pier down along the busy roadway, presenting a safety problem. The new sidewalk will safely separate pedestrians and traffic.
Use of the pier at this time of year is significantly less than during the summer, and fishing boats will still be able to access the north jog and the dock along the front of the packing building, although those areas are limited in the space available for offloading, said Harbormaster Stuart Smith. Fishermen can also use the town dock on Stage Harbor during the construction period.
Water access to the south jog will be blocked by a turbidity boom during construction, according to a press release from the town.
MAS Building and Bridge, which installed the Muddy Creek bridge several years ago, is the contractor on the project. Selectmen recently authorized the use of $3.97 million from the town's waterfront infrastructure bond to fund the project; additional funding comes from a $1 million Massachusetts Seaport Economic Council grant. The MAS bid did not include the Barcliff Avenue sidewalk, which is being redesigned to lower the projected cost; other expenditures not included under the bid are engineering and an owner's project manager. Overall, the project is projected to cost $4,976,010.
The bulkhead work is anticipated to be completed by the end of April, and other site work should be finished by June, prior to the fishing and tourist seasons. Officials were anxious to get the project underway as soon as possible so as to make those deadlines. Memories still linger from the fish pier observation deck project, which went a year over schedule.
Details of the contractor's schedule may change due to work progress and weather, according to officials.