WELLFLEET — The state Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Dept. of Transportation (MassDOT) presented updated plans on March 12 for a two-mile bike path extension ending at Route 6 south of the Main Street intersection. The public meeting was dominated by comments opposing the extension, which did not leave much room for discussion of proposed improvements to Route 6.
The DCR’s design for extending Cape Cod Rail Trail from Lecount Hollow Road to a new Route 6 terminus is 90-percent complete, said Nick Gove, deputy commissioner of operations.
Phase one of the plan ends in 2021 with the trail going to the new Wellfleet Hollow state campground (formerly Paine’s), and then, when the Route 6-Main Street redesign is also underway, the trail will be extended to Route 6. The terminus will include parking, bike racks, and a new crosswalk at the highway. The crosswalk will include traffic lights over the highway that pedestrians and cyclists can press to stop vehicles.
The timing of the DCR rail trail completion is meant to coincide with completion of MassDOT’s improvements to the Route 6-Main Street intersection in 2023. The schedule was set in response to widespread public concern that recreational cyclists from the rail trail would be “dumped” onto an unsafe portion of the highway with numerous curb cuts, near where 16-year-old Miles Tibbetts died in August 2013 crossing the road on his bike.
“What we heard loud and clear is the coordination between DCR and DOT was vital to public safety to folks,” said Andrew Paul, a MassDOT highway engineer.
Much of the March 12 presentation involved these improvements. From the bike trail terminus to Main Street, the state proposes to add six-foot-wide bike lanes painted on both sides of the highway. There will also be raised and paved sidewalks for pedestrians on both sides of Route 6.
On the westbound side, the sidewalk would be six feet wide, while the sidewalk on the eastbound side would be 10 feet wide. The eastbound side also would include a five-foot-wide grass buffer between the bike lane and sidewalk. Curb cuts would be more clearly defined and narrowed to limit unexpected interactions between cyclists, pedestrians, and cars, Paul said.
To reduce car speed and improve turning safety, a turning lane will be added to get to the Outer Cape Health Pharmacy, which will cause the loss of one through-traffic lane.
There will also be a left-hand-turn lane onto Cahoon Hollow Road.
“So lots of factors will reduce speed,” Paul said.
State Sen. Julian Cyr urged Wellfleet residents to consider the positive aspects of the project, which includes millions of dollars in state-funded road improvements.
The Route 6-Main Street project will cost an estimated $6.8 million, according to Judith Reardon Riley of MassDOT. These improvements will be timed to go along with a third piece of the road puzzle — a resurfacing of the entire length of Route 6 from Eastham to Truro, which will cost another $8.3 million. Both of the highway projects are at the preliminary design stages and the cost may change as the projects are further developed, Riley added.
Still, those at the meeting expressed strong opposition to having the bike trail end at Route 6.
Ryan Curley said he cannot count how many people he knows who have been hit near there. One of his staff members suffered a concussion and a broken arm when struck by a car on her bike, he said.
“Putting additional uses in that place is irresponsible,” he said.
Michael DeVasto, a select board member, agreed, saying he was almost hit by a motorist who swerved just slightly.
Cyr said he doesn’t know where to put “his thumb on the scale” in favor of or against the plan.
“This has been a difficult one to call because I’ve heard overwhelming concern and broad support,” he said.
People who wish to make comments on the DOT project may go to mass.gov/forms/dcr-public-comments.