Efforts to get rid of the Belmont Circle, the rotary at the east end of Main Street, Buzzards Bay, took a step forward this week when the state Senate included $3.5 million for that project in its $683 million bond bill for transportation improvements for Fiscal Year 2013.
Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said, “Improving the Belmont Rotary in Bourne continues to be a top priority for the town and officials have long been looking for funding opportunities that will support this project.”
As long ago as October of 2006, the now-defunct Buzzards Bay Village Association hired Wesley J. Ewell of Pocasset, a professional planning consultant and member of the Local Comprehensive Planning Committee, to conduct a transportation study of the village.
Mr. Ewell completed that study in June of 2007.
In discussing his traffic analysis at the time, Mr. Ewell said people had said that the commercial vibrancy of Buzzard Bay’s Main Street was harmed when the bypass road was built. What he was surprised to learn, however, was that it was not the bypass, itself, that caused the harm, as much as it was the traffic circles located at both ends of that roadway. His analysis said that if those rotaries were eliminated, it would double the road system’s capacity to handle traffic and increase the use of Main Street.
He estimated, at the time, that a project that combined the elimination of both Belmont and Memorial Circles, as well as changes to the bypass road and the access road to Route 25, could be completed at a cost of about $3 million. Drawings of his proposed reconfigurations were a part of his plan.
The town adopted that plan, making some changes to the proposed new traffic flow. Between the adoption of that plan and now, Town Planner Coreen V. Moore said, the town has worked to bring the elimination of the rotaries to the attention of regional and state officials.
Selectmen heard in the fall of 2007 that Mr. Ewell’s ideas had been presented to the Cape Cod Joint Transportation Committee, and the next step would be a presentation before the Cape Cod Metropolitan Planning Organization, which makes funding recommendations on projects competing for state and federal funds.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino announced the Senate’s addition of funding for the elimination of Belmont Circle, of one of the two Buzzards Bay rotaries, to selectmen this week, saying it took the involvement of Senate President Murray, along with State Representatives Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich) and David T. Vieira (R-Falmouth) to get the funding this far along in the process.
The Senate bill and the House bill will now go to a conference committee that is expected to produce a compromise bill for final passage and subsequent consideration by the governor. If the funding is ultimately approved, it should pay for both final design and construction.
Mr. Guerino said that the elimination of Belmont Circle would simplify the choices that need to be made by drivers accessing the Bourne Bridge and would “greatly help to reduce traffic congestion on the Scenic Highway; thus making travel safer.”
In October, Bourne also received $1.25 million from the state’s supplemental budget for the improvements to the Main Street streetscape that are currently under construction.
The town had hoped that the other rotary, Memorial Circle, could be eliminated as a part of the work being done on the Cohasset Narrows Bridge, but that work could not be changed. It was funded with federal economic recovery dollars that targeted already engineered, shovel-ready projects.