WELLFLEET — It has taken years, but the plan to add turn lanes, bike paths, and sidewalks to the intersection of Route 6 and Main Street cleared the select board’s review on Aug. 27 and will now go to a full public hearing on Sept. 22.
The improvement plan, first proposed in 2014 in reaction to a spate of accidents, has generated more letters from the public than any other in Helen Miranda Wilson’s 10 years on the select board, she said. The proposal by the state Dept. of Transportation (DOT) was stalled when it became intertwined with the Cape Cod Rail Trail extension proposed by the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), which proved unpopular. The bike path extension now stops at the Wellfleet Hollow Campground, a mile from Route 6.
The select board members liked the presentation by Jill McLaughlin, senior transportation engineer with Stantec, who the town contracted to do the design.
There are six major elements to the project. The first is eliminating the passing lane at the lights, which creates an unsafe incentive for people to race past each other.
Second, with that lane gone, there’s room for a left-hand turn lane on the westbound side so drivers can get to the Outer Cape Health Pharmacy.
Third, the intersection will be flanked by sidewalks, 5 feet wide on the westbound side and 6.5 feet wide on the eastbound side, where PJ’s Family Restaurant and Cumberland Farms sit. The DOT originally proposed a 10-foot-wide mixed-use lane there, but the select board protested that mixing bikes with pedestrians was unsafe. Though they did not vote to approve this particular change, option 2, they said they much preferred it and left it to the next hearing for further discussion.
Fourth, Stantec proposed new painted bike lanes, 5 feet wide, on each side, separated from the sidewalks by a 3-foot grass berm westbound and a 6.5-foot berm eastbound. The car lanes will be separated from the bike lanes by a two-foot buffer painted on the asphalt.
The fifth change will occur at Cahoon Hollow Road, where a left-hand turn lane will be added on the westbound side.
Police Chief Mike Hurley asked if the exit from Cahoon Hollow onto Route 6 should become a no-left-turn area.
McLaughlin said she could talk with the DOT about it. Select board member Mike DeVasto said he worried people would then just drive into PJ’s parking lot and make the left from there. The select board held off on voting on this portion of the plan pending more information from McLaughlin.
The last major change would occur on Main Street. Approaching the intersection, the plan originally had 5-foot bike lanes on both sides, without any separation from the road except a painted line. A 5-foot-wide sidewalk would be added by the Wicked Oyster and Piping Plover.
DeVasto said he would prefer to have a 2-foot separation from the vehicle lanes and reduce the bike lanes to 3-foot paths. McLaughlin said she thought that would be possible.
But not all the select board members liked that plan.
John Wolf said he did not think pedestrians should be encouraged, with the addition of sidewalks, to use that intersection at all. Wilson agreed, saying, “There is very little foot and cycling traffic most of the year.”
But McLaughlin said there are well-worn tracks in the dirt where pedestrians and cyclists edge along Main Street and by the cemetery on Route 6.
DeVasto supported the sidewalks.
“I don’t know the last time you were on the side of the road there, but it does not feel safe,” he said. “I don’t see why we should be relegating people who are walking to poison-ivy-covered goat paths.”
“There are bicyclists there all the time,” added board member Janet Reinhart. “At night, workers drive home on the shoulder. You don’t see them until you are right on them. There is liability for inaction. We really gotta do something and move forward.”
Chief Hurley lent his support as well.
“We need a safe place for cyclists and pedestrians, because you are not going to stop them from using the area,” Hurley said.
Only two members of the public spoke up. Mimi Butts, whose family owns Bay Sails Marine west of the Main Street interaction, said someone should be considering the businesses in the area, though she did not elaborate. And Irene Goldman called the design a big improvement.
“This goes a long way to making progress for everyone, bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists,” she said.
Next is the hearing on Sept. 22. The project design is 25-percent complete. The 75-percent plan will be done by January 2022, said McLaughlin. A final design is expected by July or August of next year. The project is being paid for the federal government and the state.