Wareham community bike path inches forward

Jan 20, 2014

When the warm weather eventually comes this spring, the Wareham Bike Path committee wants to make sure local cyclists and tourists can safely enjoy the roads in Wareham and Onset.

The bike path committee has worked with the Friends of the Wareham Community Pathway group to raise $4,000 to mark the bike path on Onset Ave. Committee members hope to finish the Onset Ave road striping before the summer and are also working to secure a piece of the $12 billion transportation bond bill currently moving through the state legislature.

"There's not a business in town that wouldn't benefit from the bike path," said Michael Langford, chairman of the bike path committee.

At last Wednesday's committee meeting, Langford and other board members said real estate values along the route would increase and the idea of the path is popular within the community.

According survey data taken by the committee in November, 96 percent of the 899 people polled answered yes to the question, "Would you use a bicycle/walking path from the Marion town line to the Bourne town line if it were available?"

Committee member Dave Smith said an estimate from a striping company for Onset Ave. was $9,000 but Langford doesn't think the final cost will reach that amount.

Langford said the committee raised $250 at last year's Cranberry Festival by putting out a jar and telling people, "For every dollar you donate, that's two feet of striping." He added, "The town is worried about the expense of it, but if we can come up with it without spending town funds that's even better. That shows the interest in the community of getting the pathway in place."

Aside from the Friends group donation, Langford said the committee is working with the Wareham Community and Economic Development Authority and other local businesses to raise funds.

The committee also discussed the five-year, $12.4 billion transportation bond bill currently in the state House Ways and Means Committee which includes a $377 million line item for bike and walking paths.

Langford said the pathway project is a combined project with 90 percent of funding coming from the state and federal government and 10 percent by the town. The Wareham section of the path is the longest on the south coast and is a connecting route from Providence to Cape Cod. That all bodes well for Wareham, but Langford said the town still needs to solidify the project design and comply with state regulatory agencies.

"Just because the money has been approved in a bond, getting the bond utilized and getting the money out to the towns will be the challenge," Langford said.

The committee is also working on finalizing the path route by the spring and expressed support for a route from Onset Ave. that circumvents the busiest area in Onset.

"We've seen a lot of different designs but we still think the safest alternative would be a single striping next to the sidewalk going down West Boulevard instead of trying to cut down through the village of Onset where there is far more parking, people coming out of cars and opening doors," Langford said.

The committee is scheduled to discuss their plans with the board of selectmen at the Jan. 28 selectmen's meeting.