The edges of Peabody Drive (Route 3) between Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor are crumbling, and in many places, the shoulders are narrow or nonexistent. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Bike lane study sought

MOUNT DESERT — The town is seeking a federal grant to cover 80 percent of the estimated $100,000 cost of feasibility and engineering studies for adding bike lanes on Peabody Drive (Route 3) between Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor.

Grants are awarded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) for projects “to improve transportation facilities that provide access to, are adjacent to or are located within federal lands.”

Selectman Brian Reilly said he met a few months ago with several area cyclists to talk about how to make the 2.9-mile section of Route 3 from the Route 198 intersection to Seal Harbor beach safer for cycling. The Stanley Brook Road entrance to Acadia National Park turns north off of Route 3 at the beach.

The Board of Selectmen has voted to have the town apply for the FLAP grant. Public Works Director Tony Smith and Gordon Beck, a member of the town’s sustainability committee, worked with a few of the cyclists on the grant application.

The application states that the purpose of the Peabody Drive improvements would be “to transform an important road that provides direct access to Acadia National Park from its current condition of being dangerous for cyclists and other users to a safe, scenic and environmentally friendly major bicycling corridor.”

Elaborating on the condition of the road, the application states that, in many places, “The travel lane is in complete disrepair and is very narrow. There are rarely even minimal paved shoulders suitable for cyclists. Those conditions make it extremely dangerous for all users … especially during the high tourist season.”

The grant application notes that the proposed project would support Acadia’s General Management Plan, which calls for improving nonmotorized access to the park.

Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider has written a letter to FLAP officials expressing “strong support” for Mount Desert’s grant application.

He wrote that the benefits of greater bicycle access to the park would include “improved visitor experience, reduced carbon emissions and less motor vehicle congestion and demand for parking.”

Selectman Matt Hart said that in addition to enhancing safety, the addition of bike lanes could have “the economic impact of attracting more cyclists or encouraging more cycling on the island.”

“Cyclists who take vacations tend to have disposable income,” he said.

Beck agreed, saying, “Logic dictates that if you’re cycling … the likelihood is that you may be spending more time here and loosening your purse strings.”

If the FLAP grant is awarded, the town could pay its $20,000 share of the cost of the feasibility and engineering studies in cash, in-kind services or a combination of the two. Reilly and Beck suggested that some of the town’s cost might be covered by private donations.

The first phase of the work for which the grant is being sought is a “feasibility analysis to determine the type and extent of work required.”

The cost of that analysis is estimated at about $20,000.

The second phase, the engineering design process, would cost an estimated $80,000.

The cost of construction – the actual improvement of the roadway and shoulders – would depend on the results of the feasibility and engineering studies.

Smith, the public works director, said he expects to be notified by the end of the year whether the town’s FLAP grant application has been approved. He had asked the Maine Department of Transportation to provide a letter of support for the grant. But DOT Regional Engineer John Devin responded that he must “respectfully decline” that request because the DOT was submitting its own FLAP grant application for another “priority need” in the state.

However, Devin wrote in his email to Smith, “The addition of shoulders along this section of Route 3 would, of course, have safety benefits for bicycles, pedestrians and other users of the roadway.

“While we elect not to support an application that would compete with our own, the town could consider an application for funding this project through the (DOT’s) Municipal Partnership Initiative, which can provide up to $500,000 in state funding to match an equal or greater municipal share.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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