State still pushing dangerous Wellfleet Rail Trail extension

There’s good news and there’s bad news about the state’s controversial plan for Wellfleet’s bike path. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), has for several years been trying to sell the town on the idea of extending the Rail Trail, which since the 1980s has ended at Lecount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet, to the most congested stretch of Route 6 on the Outer Cape.

In every hearing and in a near-unanimous town meeting vote in 2019, citizens have declared loud and clear: thanks but no thanks. Leading hordes of cyclists to the highway is a dangerous idea, turning businesses on Route 6 and downtown into “attractive nuisances” in the legal sense of luring people to a dangerous situation.

The good news is that the newly reconfigured selectboard voted in late August (finally) to do as instructed by that town meeting vote and send a letter to the DCR and the governor telling them that the current plan to connect the bike path to Route 6 is unacceptable. (The previous board had inexplicably been dragging its heels.)

As Mike DeVasto, the selectboard chairman, commented, at least now we have only the state pushing this plan on this, not our own selectboard.

The bad news is that despite the clear message from those whose lives will be most affected , local citizens, the state still seems determined to make its bike trail plan happen asap, perhaps starting in 2021

In 2018 after a series of accidents, including fatalities, on that very same stretch of highway, the town requested from the state a safer design of the traffic light intersection with Main St. At a hearing he Department of Transportation (DOT) experts strongly advocated for a roundabout but heard from a long line of citizens the consensus of local knowledge that that wouldnt’t work. So it was back to the drawing board.

Now here it is two years later and nothing has been done to improve that dangerous intersection. In fact the other state agency, the DCR, has been pushing their bike trail idea which, in leading all those cyclists—the state at one hearing estimated at least 1000 a day in season– to that fraught stretch of Route 6 will make the original problem much worse.

At the August selectboard meeting the DOT was there, not to address the specific problems with the traffic light intersection they had been invited to improve but with pictures of their proposed bike lanes along Route 6 past several of our busiest curb cuts that would be needed to accommodate the much enlarged problem of the DCR’s proposed bike trail extension to the highway.

The state continues to say they’re all ears when it comes to residents’ opinion, but they appear to hear nothing. At hearings they prefer to treat their pet project as a fait accompli, modified when necessary by tweaking details to address “ local concerns.” But as they know, the local concern is not about details but about the whole plan to extend the bike path to Route 6.

Will the selectboard’s clearly worded letter of opposition have an effect, or will the state ignore or misconstrue its clear message and keep pushing its pet plan?

Meanwhile, a local group, Concerned Citizens for a Sensible Wellfleet Bikeway keeps working for a bike path that will be sensible both in avoiding p utting all those cyclists on Route 6 truer to the original vision of a bike path through our town and eventually to Provincetown.

The widening of Route 6 to accommodate hordes of cyclists seems completely disconnected from the idea of a bike “path”, a rural, scenic and safe way well away from cars.

Concerned citizens–and all citizens should be concerned about the state’s plan, which would have a huge, permanent effect on our town–should watch for relevant future meetings of the selectboard and hearings sponsored by the state (at which they will, probably once more, solicit more local opinion to ignore).

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