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Wyatt Way to receive bike/ped upgrades by autumn

Bike lanes and sidewalks could stretch from Grow to the Head of the Bay.

It’s long, it’s steep and it’s short – sometimes frighteningly so – on amenities for bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Long the bane of riders coming and going from the island’s south end, Wyatt Way will see bike lanes and other improvements between Weaver Road and the Head of the Bay this summer.

With a favorable construction bid and some shuffling of funds, that work could be extended all the way to Lovell or Grow avenues, depending on cost and City Council support at next Wednesday’s meeting.

“If they’ll give us the thumbs up, we think we can get it done,” said Roger Mustain, city engineer.

Wyatt Way was identified as a priority under the city’s Non-Motorized Transportation Plan.

Current amenities are poor: a random patchwork of sidewalks, gravel paths and unimproved shoulders of varying widths. Absent a dedicated lane of their own, westbound bicyclists spend the length of the downhill trip commingling with automobiles.

Public works officials had expected to extend bike lanes and some sort of sidewalk, path or widened shoulder for pedestrians from Eakin Drive west to the Head of the Bay. Conservative budgeting put the project estimate at $400,000.

But expensive curb-and-gutter work was dismissed as unnecessary, in part to keep the “rural” feel of the roadway as it leaves Winslow. Then the construction bid came in at $160,000, allowing the Department of Public Works to consider extending the bike lanes and sidewalks further up the hill.

A proposal will be taken to the council Wednesday for consideration.

It’s unclear how far the improvements will stretch in the other direction, and public works Director Randy Witt acknowledged that the Head of the Bay remains a problem area for bicyclists.

The south side of Wyatt is particularly narrow there and pinches bicyclists into the path of vehicles, but the city lacks sufficient right of way to make any immediate improvements. But the Head of the Bay could see attention soon.

“I would say if we can get these pieces done this year, that will probably rise up as something to do next year,” Witt said.

Wyatt Way is just one of several non-motorized enhancement projects this summer. The city will replace nine driveways and three ramps along Madison Avenue between Knechtel Way and High School Road, bringing them up to current ADA standards. Construction should begin within the next week or so.

Also, the city will formalize the pedestrian connection at the east end of Shepard Way. A new gravel path will connect that street and the Grow Avenue neighborhood with the back of the Kids Discovery Museum on Madison Avenue.

The route has long been a popular shortcut for pedestrians heading into town, but it crosses a grassy vacant lot. Mustain said a gravel path will be installed to make the route clear.

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