Selectmen sign off on road plan, now seek funds
By Allan Stein at The Hull Times
Hull’s five-member board of selectmen has thrown its unanimous support behind an early project design for converting portions of roadway along Nantasket Beach from one-way to two-way traffic.
The board’s positive vote on July 27 was required in order to complete the town’s application that seeks $4.13 million in grant funding from the state’s MassWorks program to carry out the multiple-phase road reconfiguration project.
“This is a robust application, but with a great development potential for the state to invest in,” said consultant Kevin Dandrade of the engineering firm TEC, who presented selectmen last Thursday with the most up-to-date details of the project’s design, which is 25 percent complete.
The MassWorks application deadline is Friday, Aug. 5.
The town will be notified in about three months if the application has been approved, Dandrade said. Grant funds awarded during this competitive cycle will be available to pay for spring 2018 construction.
“We believe, and the traffic models have shown, that converting to a two-way system between Anastos Corner and Phipps Street will accomplish a few things for the town,” said Robert DeCoste, chairman of the Hull Redevelopment Authority (HRA). “First and foremost, it will increase the access of public safety vehicles and increase the pedestrian safety in the area. It will also add economically to the existing businesses and any new businesses in the area.”
The project is a joint effort of the HRA and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DRC) in accordance with the state agency’s master plan to enhance traffic flow, pedestrian safety, and commercial development opportunities within the Nantasket Reservation area, which is under state control.
The project encompasses the town’s business-friendly zoning overlay district along Nantasket Avenue, as well as the urban renewal property owned and maintained by the HRA, which has been a major supporter and financier of the two-way street redesign concept.
The HRA’s work dates back to the late 1960s, when it was charged with developing a 13-acre parcel of land located between the two roadways under consideration – Nantasket Avenue and Hull Shore Drive – running from Phipps Street to Water Street, between the ocean and bay.
DeCoste said the move from one-way to two-way traffic will benefit the target area in a number of ways.
“With two-way traffic, local shops will have twice as many vehicles passing by their shops. It will also show a more direct roadway [using] Hull Shore Drive Extension. So, those going to the public beach can enter and exit the lots without interrupting local traffic trying to get north of the [war memorial] monument,” DeCoste said.
“The road going from Nantasket Ave. to Phipps Street [along the ocean side of the memorial] will be closed and that area can be added to the monument,” he added. “The road design by Anastos Corner will help prevent drivers from taking the left and going down the wrong way through Surfside.”
Dandrade said the work will include what he called a “road diet,” or narrowing of the roadway, that will provide an extra 28 feet of development space to enhance HRA parking lots.
“This is a huge benefit for buildability and walkability, and for calming traffic,” he said.
“It’s close to the way it is going to be, but there are a lot of tweaks in it,” Dandrade said of the preliminary plan design. “We are very confident about the parameters of the design.”
Nelson Nygaard and TEC completed the feasibility study phase of the work and are ready to move on to phase two of the project, which is tentatively set to begin in January.
The work would focus on Hull Shore Drive and Nantasket Avenue, running from Samoset Avenue to Anastos Corner and converting those streets from one-way pairs to two bi-way streets. The work would also dovetail into DCR plans to develop the Nantasket Reservation area with features including a revamped boardwalk, bike lanes, and increased green space.
The third and final phase will be the complete buildout of the project, DeCoste said.
“I think it’s a realistic goal,” he said.
The current road configuration, which created Hull Shore Drive and Hull Shore Drive Extension and converted the Surfside portion of Nantasket Avenue to one-way traffic, was implemented in the 1970s. Town officials then believed the road plan was needed to help accomplish the newlycreated HRA’s urban renewal plans.
But those development plans never came to fruition, and many Hull residents have been stymied for years by intense traffic bottlenecks throughout Surfside, particularly in summer, when Nantasket Beach is thronged by daytrippers.
According to the town’s consultants, restoring a two-way road system will:
- Preserve the same amount of through vehicle capacity while providing alternate circulating routes for travelers.
- Disperse traffic on multiple routes to avoid concentrated pinch points.
- Lower vehicle speeds, making area roadways safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Provide multiple options for residents to avoid beach traffic.
- Provide a more logical connection of streets with multiple opportunities to recirculate without using the existing circuitous arrangement of oneway streets “This will reduce overall travel distances and travel times,” Dandrade said.
- Improve emergency access by providing a means of redirecting traffic if one roadway is blocked.
- Add curbside parking to promote access to businesses and create a more engaging streetscape environment.
- Provide opportunities for future Surfside seasonal/ cultural events where the town can close either roadway to vehicles and still keep traffic moving on the other street.
“The proposed roadway designs respect a ‘Complete Streets’ philosophy, whereby we are seeking to improve the experience for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and will result in an overall reduction of pavement,” Dandrade said.
The grant application “builds upon the successful implementation of the 2012 MassWorks award for Nantasket Avenue in Surfside, [which] merely required [the town’s] restriping in that section of roadway. That prior investment led to reoccupancy of retail storefronts and improvements by the [Nantasket Beach] Resort,” he said.
The requested $4.13M investment is expected to be a spur for the development of the HRA property, fulfilling authority members’ goals of attracting “high-quality” residential units, a hotel, and a mix of shops and restaurants in an effort to make Nantasket Beach a year-’round destination.
“The proposed roadway improvements and the development will knit together the Surfside and Kenberma village areas with a vibrant walkable corridor,” Dandrade said.
Hull Director of Community Planning and Development Chris Dilorio said the two-way road concept for the Nantasket area went through a “robust public discussion and comment period.” As the design and engineering work continues to develop public meetings will be held to solicit comments on the proposal, he said.
Following that period, the local permit process would include board of selectmen, conservation commission, and planning board for new roadway construction. The state permit process would include a MEPA filing, MassDOT, and DCR access permits.
“Various utility relocation permits would be required, as well. It is anticipated that the permits would be obtained by mid- to late 2018,” Dilorio said.
To show widespread support for the grant application, Dandrade recommended a meeting with selectmen and business stakeholders be held within the next 60 days.
Town officials placed an early estimate for the two-way road conversion project at $2 million. Other potential sources of funding include the Complete Streets program, as well as the TIPS program (Transportation Improvement Program), which parcels out federal funds supplied through the state.
Hull recently received a $6.7 million TIP grant for the reconstruction of Atlantic Avenue. However, Dandrade said the $4.13 million MassWorks grant would be the “biggest catalyst” for economic development of the area.
Those who are interested in learning more about the two-way design proposal or the HRA may access the authority’s website at www.hra02045.com.