WELLFLEET — Adding a sidewalk and bike paths along East Main Street is, in theory, a dream come true for many townspeople. But not everyone is thrilled about the plans.
Some property owners on Main Street say they do not like the idea of a sidewalk encroaching on their land. The town will need to buy portions of nine properties and obtain 12 permanent easements and 13 temporary ones to complete plans to make the treacherous intersection of Route 6 and Main Street safer, said Jay Norton, the director of Wellfleet’s dept. of public works. Norton said the list of easements may change as the project progresses.
That crossroads has been flagged as one of the most dangerous intersections in the county. Plans to renovate it have been in the works since 2014. The cost of the $11-million project will mostly be covered by state and federal funds. The work, however, has been held up for years because of its being entangled with the unpopular — and now scuttled — Cape Cod Rail Trail extension. The pandemic did not help either effort.
The project is still only at the 25-percent design phase, where it has lingered for three years, said Wellfleet Police Chief Mike Hurley. The plan must be approved by 2022 to stay in the state and federal budget cycle, Norton said.
“It’s a very competitive process, as there are many projects waiting to be programed, so it’s in the town’s best interest to maintain positive momentum,” Norton told the Independent.
Also, Norton said, the state is planning to repave the entire length of Route 6 from Eastham to Truro in 2023, making it “that much more critical for the two projects to remain on a concurrent path.”
On Sept. 22, the state Dept. of Transportation (DOT) held a public hearing on the 25-percent plans. The design includes sidewalks and painted bike lanes on both sides of the highway as well as five-foot-wide bike lanes on both sides of Main Street. It also calls for a sidewalk on the north side of Main Street from the Wicked Oyster restaurant to Route 6.
During the hearing, officials revealed the need to negotiate one “fee acquisition” for an area along Route 6 that is currently private property. The state must also get three permanent easements and 23 temporary easements along the highway, Norton said.
Meanwhile, the town must negotiate and pay for nine acquisitions and facilitate 12 permanent and 13 temporary easements on Main Street. The select board plans to discuss cost, budgeting, and strategies for obtaining these easements on Oct. 12. Board chair Ryan Curley did not want to say if there is money budgeted, or the political will, to pursue the plan until that Oct. 12 meeting.
Zachary Ment, manager of the Piping Plover marijuana shop at the corner of Main Street and Route 6, said he is no fan of a sidewalk going over his property. The town will have to pursue the taking by eminent domain, he said. It will have to pay fair market value for the taking, and Ment plans to pursue aggressive price negotiations, he said.
Municipal takings cannot be halted by property owners’ objections. The DOT states that owners may petition the courts if they believe the price is not fair, but “this action does not stop or delay the acquisition.”
The proposed sidewalk would cross Ment’s new lawn. The construction will probably kill his cherry trees, Ment added.
Another affected property owner, Ment’s neighbor Nancy Cook, said that she preferred not to comment. Wicked Oyster owner Ken Kozak said he had not seen plans and was awaiting a proposal with trepidation. Kozak fears he could lose his parking lot in the front of the restaurant.
“Why can’t they put it on the other side?” he asked.
Ment said he, too, would prefer a sidewalk on the other side of the street, where pedestrians and cyclists have made a well-worn dirt path. The path allows people traveling toward Route 6 to continue south on the highway without having to cross it.
To accommodate Ment and others, the select board has formally requested that the state reduce the proposed five-foot bike lanes on Main Street to three-foot-wide paths.
At the public hearing, criticisms of and questions about the proposed improvements along Route 6 surfaced as well.
That plan begins near Way 68 and extends a third of a mile north to the intersection with Main Street and just beyond the Outer Cape Health Services Pharmacy. It includes adding southbound left turn lanes at the pharmacy and at Cahoon Hollow Road. Hurley said it could make sense to extend the Cahoon Hollow turn lane farther down the highway, to make turning safer at Cumberland Farms.
This turning lane would be similar to the one alongside the strip mall that houses Dunkin Donuts, the Terps Wellfleet dispensary, the post office, and Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater.
Hurley said the Dunkin turn lane has improved safety.
Although people are questioning some details, in general, Norton said, the plan appears to be moving toward the 75-percent design phase, which will be presented to the public in December, according to the DOT’s announcement.
A full description of the project is available on the DOT website: mass.gov/doc/massdot-hearing-handout-wellfleet-092221/download.
Editor’s note: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article published in print on Oct. 7 erroneously identified Jay Norton as acting director of the Wellfleet DPW. He has been named permanent director of the department.