Section of Manhan Rail Trail behind Pleasant Street mills in Easthampton to close temporarily

Sunday, March 16, 2014
EASTHAMPTON — A project to install new water pipes and bury electrical lines behind several mill buildings along Pleasant Street is set to get started, but it will mean temporarily closing a section of the Manhan Rail Trail.

City Planner Jessica Allan said Thursday that a section of the trail from the Putnam Court to Ferry Street will be closed through March 31 while the contractor, Geeleher Enterprises of Southampton, digs trenches that will later hold water lines.

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The water line will cross under the rail trail at one place to connect to a line on Mechanic Street. The half-mile stretch will close mainly for safety reasons while workers use heavy machinery to work around the trail area, Allan said.

The path will temporarily reopen at the end of March, but will close again later in the spring when the pipes are installed. Allan said the contractor has not determined the exact dates for the second closure, but they estimate it will be closed for six to eight weeks.

“It’s thrilling that this project is finally underway,” Allan said. “It has taken a lot of energy to get it to where it’s at right now.”

The city and the mill building owners partnered on the project back in 2011, with the owners paying for the design and construction documents and the city seeking funding for the work. It is taking place behind the mills stretching from the Eastworks Building to Mill 180.

The first phase of the project, funded by a $2.7 million MassWorks grant, involves installing bigger water pipes that will serve the buildings and burying electrical lines that now prevent fire trucks from accessing the rear of every building.

Geeleher Enterprises bid $1,049,440 for the water pipe installation and the remaining $1.6 million will go to pay Western Massachusetts Electric Co. to bury electrical lines and take down the existing utility poles, Allan said.

Ideally, Geeleher Enterprises will be done by mid-May and then WMECO can bury the electric lines. The lines will be installed by June 30, per the terms of the state grant, but demolition of existing poles and lines will take place in July.

The second phase of the project, partially funded by another MassWorks grant for $1.5 million, aims to make the rear of the buildings more attractive and accessible to draw more renters and customers. The grant will fund the creation of 404 parking spaces, but Allan said the city is hoping to later add lighting, landscaping and paths to connect the mill entrances to the Manhan Rail Trail.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.