Pathways Committee has lots of ideas, but no way to implement them

Jul 10, 2019

The Pathways Committee has big plans to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety in Dartmouth. The problem? There is no clear way to bring that change to fruition. 

At the July 8 Select Board meeting, Alan Heureux, who has chaired the committee for the past few years, brought forth what will be his final set of recommendations. Heureux is stepping down as chairman of the committee. 

The committee was formed several years ago to develop long-term and short-term plans for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in town, forward plans for a regional bikeway, and bring bicycle and pedestrian safety into the review process of new development. 

Heureux’s recommendations include seven items: Extensive improvements and changes to Russells Mills Landing, sidewalks along Smith Neck Road, Russells Mills Road, and Reed Road, new speed limits signs in Padanaram and Russells Mills Village, and bicycle infrastructure improvements to support the proposed South Coast Bikeway. 

The final proposal is to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements into road reconstruction projects via a public hearing process. 

Many of these projects have fully detailed engineering reports and schematics behind them, which Heureux, who is a civil engineer by trade, created pro bono. Despite this, many of these proposals — which have been in the works for years — have not been acted upon. 

“Committee members are frustrated there has been no progress,” said Pathways Committee member Gerald Koot. “We’re not just a bicycle committee. We’re a pathways committee. And that means safety for people riding and walking.” 

Koot said attempts to work with the Department of Public Works and Dartmouth Police on addressing safety issues have not gained any traction. 

“There’s no process for us to do anything,” Koot said. “We’re not very useful if we just put out plans — there should be a regular expenditure on these kinds of things.” 

Select Board member David Tatelbaum suggested looking into whether it would be possible to put together a budget and create a new department or subdepartment to tackle the issue. 

“That’s the only way to do it… plan it, budget it, put people in place who can pull it off and manage it,” Tatelbaum said. 

Select Board member Frank Gracie acknowledged the board had not been able to make better use of the Committee's findings, and noted many times it comes down to money. Successful sidewalk projects are often funded through grants, he noted. 

“I don’t think this committee should go away, no question about it” said Select Board Chair Stanely Mickelson. “I’m more inclined to think about the process going forward. This is a large project, quite the endeavor you want to accomplish, with no money at all.” 

Mickelson noted many of the Pathways Committee’s suggestions are included in the town’s Harbor Management Plan. 

After discussion, the board appointed Sandra Medeiros, who also serves on the South Coast BIkeway Alliance, to the board.