Mattapoisett Selectmen push road revamp to round no. 1

Jul 11, 2018

The Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen unanimously approved to advance the Main, Water, Beacon, and Marion Road Reconstruction Project for the first round of review from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

This decision fell after a hearing in which VHB Engineering presented a $5 million-plus design concept of the reconstruction project based on input from listening sessions among a number of municipal committees and public audiences.

Jamie Pisano of VHB said that much of the design is centered around accommodating different types of people using the roads, impacting as few adjacent properties as possible, and preserving trees as allows.

With the Selectmen’s OK, VHB is now at ten percent, the minimum requirement of project design needed to have the Department of Transportation review the group’s plans.

Sending the design in September, Pisano expects to get comments back from the Department in December. VHB then plans to ask for a 25 percent design submittal from the Board.

At the latest meeting Tuesday, July 10, Board of Selectmen Chair Jordan Collyer lauded VHB on its overall presentation, calling the plan “very well done.”

“You’re never going to please everyone, but you did a pretty good job in appealing to the masses in my opinion,” said Collyer.

This differs from Collyer’s lukewarm acceptance of the firm more than a year ago, having stated in 2017 that he had a “sour taste” in his mouth from VHB’s work on a bike path in the early 2000s, but was willing to give them a shot.

There were still some reservations this time, though. Collyer and other Selectmen worried there were too many parking spaces considered off Water St. near Shipyard Park. These spaces, he said, could block off parts of the view from the shore.

Collyer suggested that five parking spaces could be more beneficial than 13, the number VHB suggested this design would offer. In response to the Board’s weariness, VHB said they could revisit the number of parking spaces provided.

He also questioned how much of the road improvement plan would have the street’s existing layout.

“Most everywhere,” town Highway Surveyor Barry Denham responded. “There will be takings that will have to be made and especially when we get into the drainage component.”

Taking feedback from the public prior, VHB reported there was a strong desire from residents to preserve the “character” of the village, keep the design simple and not widen the streets much.

This lead designers to disregard the Department of Transportation’s “Healthy Initiative,” an effort to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians which includes having sidewalks on both sides of the road wherever possible.

“We can’t accommodate that throughout this corridor without losing the character,” Pisano said.

But there are some accommodations in the design alternative. Having met with the town’s Bike Safety Committee, VHB’s design alternative includes widening the shoulder in some areas to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians.

VHB received strong feedback from the Tree Committee concerning the project. In response, an arborist from VHB examined the downtown corridor’s treescape. In the design concept, most of the trees will stay, but some may have to be cut.

Some of these plans were originally set to come in fruition in 2021. However, now, unless another project is bumped out of line, it’s likely construction will start in 2022, reported Denham.

So far it's been more than a year since the engineering firm came onboard. In coordination with the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District, the project previously secured funding from the state’s Transportation Improvement Program.

Then, VHB originally planned to hold a 30-day comment period last November but decided to hold off on the public comment period during a holiday period, pushing the date to January and February.