Baxter Road Alternative Access Project Estimated To Cost $36 Million

David Creed •

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Development of the Baxter Road Alternative Access plan continues to come along as the Town searches for ways to combat the ongoing erosion of the Sconset Bluff. But if the plan ultimately comes to fruition, it won’t be cheap.

At last Wednesday's Select Board meeting, project manager Bill Casey of Arcadis, an engineering consultant company hired by the town, provided an update on the latest designs and informed the Board that the new estimated cost for the project is now over $36 million ($36,462,000).

“And that is when I fell off my seat earlier today when I was reading the packet, saw the cost, and I immediately forwarded this whole section to Leah Hill (town coastal resilience coordinator) to encourage all of us to start talking about how we are going to cost share these,” Select Board member Matt Fee said. “How are we going to find a way to afford this kind of stuff around the island.”

The project’s range comes with a low-end cost of $31 million and a high-end cost of $43,760,000. During a presentation to the Select Board in October of 2023 with roughly 60 percent of the design completed, the estimated cost of the project was $32,355,000 with a range of $25,890,000 (low) and $42,070,000 (high).

The goal of the project - according to the town - is to address the growing erosion risks of the bluff in relation to Baxter Road, as well as associated water and sanitary sewer infrastructure beneath it. The planning is being done in an effort to ensure safe access and continued services remain in place in the event that the road may breach or become unusable.

Casey told the Board the uptick on the latest cost estimate stems from paving costs associated with Sankaty Road. The project would also cover the removal of existing pavement on Baxter Road to prevent it from falling into the ocean as the erosion continues.

“I think it shows to me the costs and the impacts, this is one area of the island... with potential problems elsewhere,” Fee said.

The project would be split into two phases. The first phase focuses on the homes that could lose their utilities and access by 2050, according to FEMA, and the second phase would focus on homes that could be at risk by 2100.

Fee stressed the importance of making sure the process is cooperative with the homeowners in the area.

“If this is viewed as we are just going forward with this, we are going to have a hard time negotiating a lot of those easements and everything else,” Fee said. “We have a whole step in between, and we want that to be cooperative and the homeowners there to be on the same page with us or this could drag out for years.”

Town Sustainability Programs Manager Vince Murphy said they have been making this process “as inclusive as possible” – involving neighbors in discussions to determine how the project can be as acceptable as possible.

“I am trying to make this not into competitive but cooperative and have all the neighbors that will engage on board and embracing it to some level,” Murphy said. “Now that’s not to say people are all happy with it – they aren’t. People recognize this is an inconvenience, but a necessary one in some ways so they get to keep their property. Otherwise the Town is at fault for not providing the services that we are supposed to, and they don’t get their property. So it is a lose-lose and I am trying to turn it into a win-win.”

“I know it is expensive but in the long run, it’s better,” Murphy added.

Phase 1 construction is estimated to cost $14,194,000 and it includes notable costs of “earthwork and demolition” ($4,379,400) and “general requirements” ($7,826,800). Other Phase 1 costs such as easements, legal, construction oversight, private grinders, private service connections will cost an estimated 11,068,000.

Phase 2 will be an estimated cost of $11,068,000.

The planned construction schedule provides a timeline of approximately two years. It is presented as being approved at the 2025 Town Meeting and a Notice to Proceed being received on July 15, 2025. The project would have a projected end date of July 30, 2027.

Other efforts to combat the erosion of the bluff are ongoing - most notably the Town and the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund (SBPF) joining forces in December of 2023 to expand on the existing geotube project. Earlier this month, SBPF shipped millions of pounds of sand to the island by barge and dumping it over the bluff.

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