Board endorses Bayside roundabout, 10-foot paved path

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The Colchester Selectboard approved a sweeping lineup of upgrades to Malletts Bay during its meeting last Tuesday, including a roundabout at the Bayside Park intersection and a 10-foot wide shared use path on West Lakeshore Drive.

Along with a significant stormwater management improvement plan, the combined grand total of the approved trio of projects clocked in at an estimated $14.4 million.

The board endorsements came after an extensive two-year scoping study, a pair of public hearings and results from an online survey, which garnered about 100 responses, said VHB project manager David Saladino, who partnered with the town on the analysis.

“This is one of the many projects facing the town right now for which we do not have funding,” public works director Bryan Osborne said when pressed for a timeline on the bike path.

He noted the upgrades will likely require a combination of voter-approved local option tax money, funding from the transportation capital program as well as state and federal grants.

As such, a five-year timeframe wouldn’t be “unreasonable,” Osborne said.

The bike path design approved during the Oct. 10 meeting includes a green strip to separate it from vehicles and an added northern sidewalk extension, requiring about $5.4 million after factoring in stormwater needs.

Saladino said the build would fit well with the separate sidewalk redesign from Church to Prim roads. Other choices on the table had included on-road bike paths, simple signage and a designated spot for a scenic overlook, each with a set of pros and cons.

Osborne said the town used an extensive quantitative analysis to winnow down its selections and spoke with key stakeholders, including the school district and emergency service personnel, to better understand the wide-reaching consequences of each decision.

“Recognizing that the state boat launch is a significant pedestrian generator, [the 10-foot path] creates a direct linkage to connect that to significant pedestrian destinations like restaurants, shops, grocery stores, hardware stores, marine tackle, things of that nature,” Osborne said.

Citizens in attendance on Tuesday expressed rousing support for the chosen option, and the board unanimously ratified the measure, subject to available funding.

From there, Saladino moved to the four-way intersection. Officials combined two of the original options in this case, recommending a $3.31 million single-lane roundabout with stormwater accommodations and $80,000 flashing pedestrian beacons with countdown timers for citizens crossing from lower to upper Bayside Park.

In one peak summer day, Saladino said 500 pedestrians crossed at the intersection within 12 hours.

Other proposed alternatives included turning East Lakeshore Drive into a dead end, with the further option to create an outlet road to cut through the Bayside-Hazelett property and come out near Laker Lane.

Impacts were noteworthy in each of those cases, Osborne said. An installed road would likely have significant right-of-way impacts, he noted, but not building the cut-through would dramatically increase the traffic on Williams Road, requiring intersection changes and affecting quality of life for those residents.

The school district also opposed any upgrade that would draw more traffic to the already-busy Laker Lane intersection.

A roundabout, however, would create a recognizable “gateway” to Colchester, Osborne said, as the town could place vertical, architectural enhancements within the created the green spaces.

The three present board members approved the measure, with selectman Herb Downing abstaining because he resides on Williams Road.

The final subsection focused exclusively on stormwater improvements to five watersheds with 49 sub-basins that have inadequate drainage infrastructure and excessive loadings of stormwater volume, sediment and nutrients, town officials said.

Here, there were two “packages” of scoped choices: meet water quality standards or exceed them where possible. In one case, it was in fact cheaper to exceed the standards than to meet them due to the cost per-pound to remove phosphorus.

The recommended, and unanimously approved, course of action meets the standards in all except the aforementioned case and would run about $5.6 million.

Throwing a bit of a curveball, however, is the state’s likely forthcoming rule that will require the town to create a phosphorus removal plan. The result of that planning, environmental consultant Amy Macrellis said, may impact how certain improvements are prioritized.

The town recently received a $40,000 grant toward its phosphorus planning exercise and plans to kick things off next year, Colchester’s technical services manager Karen Adams said.