CAPE ELIZABETH — The Shore Road Pathway Committee approved a concept plan Wednesday. Cost estimates will be gathered for next month.
But Town Council approval of the project is considered unlikely any time soon.
The proposed pedestrian walkway would run from Fort Williams to Town Center, with most of the pavement on the west side of the street.
After hearing citizen comments on an initial plan in November, changes were made to address safety issues. While some portions of the proposed pathway originally were to run right next to Shore Road, the approved proposal provides 3 feet of buffer in all locations except two places where right-of-way lines make it unavoidable.
In those sections, the plan calls for the path to be raised 4 to 6 inches from the roadway with a curb.
Also, while the original pathway was reduced to 4 feet wide in some small sections to avoid removing trees, the approved pathway would be a constant 5 feet wide. Committee member Suzanne McGinn said that not only improves safety, but greatly improves the town’s chance of receiving grant funding for the project.
Though the concept plan has been approved and cost estimates are expected at the committee’s Feb. 25 meeting, the pathway is not yet being considered for construction. Because of the town’s budget concerns, many citizens have questioned the committee’s work.
The committee has previously defended itself by referring to its charge from the Town Council, which is to study the feasibility of constructing a pathway and offering a concept plan for such a path.
Wednesday, committee member and Town Councilor David Backer reminded the committee that “the council isn’t going to vote (to accept the pathway plan) and then vote to start building it. The money’s not there. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Backer said that upon receipt of the concept plan, committee report and cost estimate, the council will thank the committee for its work and put the recommendations on the shelf, to be acted on as funding becomes available – whether through phases, a “windfall grant” or borrowing in better economic times.
Backer compared it to the Fort Williams Master Plan, which has not been “tackled in one bite,” but over decades as work is needed.
The Shore Road Pathway plan, he said, “is a great addition to the town historical record, and someday the fruits of all this labor will be recognized.” The committee’s work, he added, “may not be the last word on this.”
The committee report is expected before the council by April. Construction of the pathway – or fundraising for that construction – requires further Town Council permission.