Sidewalk improvement plan accepted by Select Board, to go before state

Nov 15, 2023

MATTAPOISETT — The clock is ticking on Mattapoisett’s plan to improve its downtown streets and sidewalks — and state funding for the project hangs in the balance.

At its Nov. 14 meeting, the Mattapoisett Select Board saw the fourth iteration of a proposed plan to improve Main Street, Water Street, Beacon Street and Marion Road with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks.

“Our main goal is to make it a safer community for walking and for bicycling,” said Mattapoisett Select Board Chair Jodi Bauer.

The project has been in the works since around 2015, said Mattapoisett Select Board member Tyler Macallister, and has an expected price tag of $8.2 million — which could be covered by the state using Transportation Improvement Plan funding.

At previous Select Board meetings, plans proposed by VHB, an engineering firm contracted by the town, were sent back to the drawing board due to their impact on the town’s roadside trees.

Tuesday’s plan would see the project impact approximately 24 roadside trees, down from the 26 trees that would have been impacted by a similar plan presented on Oct. 24. Plans proposed by VHB and the Mattapoisett Tree Committee to plant around 40 new trees would also shore up Mattapoisett's roadside trees.

The newest plan also has no effect on Munroe Park, which would have seen significant impact in previous plans.

Tuesday’s plan aims to widen sidewalks already present on Water Street and, following suggestions from Mattapoisett Select Board Chair Jodi Bauer, extend the sidewalk on the south side of the street from Shipyard Park up through the Neds Point Road.

“I just can’t see putting the sidewalk on the northerly side,” said Bauer. “I can’t see people going back and forth across the road, I’d rather keep it all along the southerly side. .”

Bauer also raised concerns about the effect of sidewalk construction on the integrity of roadside trees’ root systems.

“As a leader in this town … if we cut the root system of these trees and make them compromised and we get a big blow — if we get a big blow — and those trees fall on somebody’s house, I’m going to feel pretty damn bad that we sacrificed a tree from somebody’s house,” said Bauer. “I love trees too, but I think we have an awesome plan to replant [trees] and keep the sidewalk on the southerly side.”

Mattapoisett Tree Committee Chair Sandy Hering said that trees along the road can be monitored and evaluated if they show signs of damage or deterioration following construction.

Further concerns raised by community members about preserving roadside trees and about the possibility of installing underground utility wires during construction were voiced at the meeting.

But now, said Macallister, the board needs to make a decision.

“Here’s the problem folks, this [money] is going to go bye-bye,” said Macallister. “[The state] is going to take it off the table and we’re going to watch $8.2 million go away … We’re discussing things that we no longer have time to discuss.”

This plan was accepted by the Mattapoisett Select Board and VHB Chief Highway Engineer Jamie Pisano told the board that he has a meeting date set with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on Dec. 5 to go over the plan.

“It’s important to keep in mind that [there are] other communities also vying for this money,” said Macallister. “That’s why I stress it’s very important we keep the date of Dec. 5 so we can keep our position on the [Transportation Improvement Plan] … the state wants to see a project ready to go.”