Select Board puts brakes on Minot Avenue bike path

Dec 20, 2022

Select Board Member Alan Slavin has long supported the idea of a bike path on Minot Avenue, which would be part of an extensive series of bike paths stretching from Fall River to Provincetown. 

However, during the Board of Selectmen meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, he reluctantly introduced a motion to temporarily “pull the plug” on the idea, which the rest of the Select Board approved.

The Board shared Slavin’s concerns about the $400,000 price tag for the path, which has been in the works since 2005 and would start at the Narrows and go to the end of Minot Avenue. 

While $200,000 of Community Preservation Committee funds will go towards the project, and much of the rest of the money would come from grants, Slavin said that legal fees and a variety of other expenses would increase the cost even more.

“I don’t know how we can financially go ahead [with the bike path] when we have so many important projects,” he said.

Slavin referred to Town Administrator Derek Sullivan’s shuffling of town buildings, which would move the Police Department to Town Hall, move the Council on Aging and town departments to the vacant Decas school building and create a community center in the current Multi-Service Center.

This, alongside the Wareham School District’s controversial $34 million budget, provided the crux of Slavin’s argument that the town has more important things to spend money on than a bike path. 

“If we come up with funding over the next year or so, or at least over the next six months,” he said, “I think we can become serious about moving forward.”

Select Board Member Jared Chadwick compared the bike park question to getting a paycheck on Thursday. Do you “waste all your money” on a fancy Friday night dinner, he asked his fellow Board members, or do you pay your bills?

Select Board Clerk Tricia Wurts was supportive of the bike path “in theory,” but she said the town would be better served putting a sidewalk on her street than building a bike path. She also wants to see other parts of the proposed path between Fall River and Provincetown.

“I’d like to see a plan that was more thorough for the whole Wareham sector,” she said. 

Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside said that she was always opposed to the bike path because “it doesn’t begin anywhere or end anywhere” — it only goes the length of Minot Avenue.

“The figures I’ve heard for building the bike path are phenomenally astonishing,” she said, noting that some cost estimates reach $600,000.

Whiteside recommended that the bike path be postponed unless the town can completely fund it with grants. She said that she did not want the town itself paying for any of it.

The delay of the bike path is frustrating news for the state Department of Transportation and the South Coast Bikeway Alliance, who have encouraged the town to begin construction as soon as possible.

Jackie Jones, Principal Transportation Planner of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District and a supporter of the bike path, attended Tuesday’s meeting virtually. However, Whiteside moved on before she had the chance to speak.

Wareham used to have a Bike Path Committee to champion the proposed project, but it has since disbanded, and Slavin has been unable to reform it.