Northampton officials prep for Damon Road closure Aug. 9-10

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Police and transportation officials are preparing a game plan to handle potential traffic issues that may crop up when a portion of Damon Road is closed to through traffic for most of the Aug. 9-10 weekend as upgrades to a railroad crossing are made.

In addition to message boards on Damon and other nearby streets — many of which are already up — alerting drivers that Damon Road will be closed to through traffic from the King Street intersection to Industrial Drive from 7 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9, to 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 10, police officers will be on hand along Damon and at other key intersections to direct traffic and alert drivers to the work.

“Police will be on Damon Road, we’ll have detour and message board signs up, and there will be roving (police) patrols as problems crop up,” said Department of Public Works Director Edward S. Huntley.

Drivers will be able to get to businesses along this stretch of road, and Damon Road will remain open from Bridge Street (Route 9) to Industrial Drive, Huntley said. He said that drivers who want to get to the industrial park will still be able to do so via Industrial Drive, but the closure could cause headaches for drivers who won’t be able to drive through on Damon from its King Street intersection.

In addition to message boards and detour signs, officials are considering using the large stationary message boards on Interstate 91 to alert drivers to the closure, and notices are being distributed to all businesses on Industrial Drive and Damon Road.

“We’re trying to get enough notice out in advance,” Huntley said.

Officials are hopeful that choosing a weekend in the middle of the summer when school is not in session will be less disruptive than a weekday with commuter traffic, Huntley said.

The railroad crossing improvement work, under the direction of the state Department of Transportation, is the first of three significant projects this year in the city to prepare for Amtrak’s passenger rail system linking Connecticut and Vermont, with stops in Northampton, Greenfield and Holyoke along the way.

The work calls for crews to remove and replace the existing track at the crossing and upgrade signal systems and utilities as needed. The road is expected to be repaved by Sunday evening, Aug. 10.

Plans also call for installation of a new traffic signal, though the DOT is expected to call for bids on that part of the project separately, Huntley said. The new signal would better regulate traffic at the intersection and ensure that the new trains traveling at high speeds can pass through safely.

The other two DOT-led Knowledge Corridor projects in Northampton this year include the upgrade of an old passenger platform at the former Union Station on Pleasant Street and construction of a bike path underpass below the train tracks off King Street behind Taco Bell.

Questions about the project can be directed to a Knowledge Corridor hotline the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has established. That number is 617-721-7506.

— Chad Cain