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Northampton celebrates completion of rail trail underpass

  • Cyclists ride under the railroad tracks and the newly opened bike path off Woodward Ave. in Northampton Nov. 9, 2017. Gazette File Photo/Carol Lollis

  • Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, at podium, speaks to about 50 people during a ceremonial opening of the bicycle/pedestrian underpass beneath the rail line between Woodmont and King Streets in Northampton on Thursday, June 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz rides an electric bike from city's ValleyBike Share program through the bicycle/pedestrian underpass that links Woodmont Street, seen behind him, and King Street in Northampton on Thursday, June 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Traffic continues through the bicycle/pedestrian underpass beneath the rail line between Woodmont and King Streets in Northampton on Thursday, June 7, 2018, as officials complete a ceremonial opening of the $4.4 million tunnel. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Staff and students from Montessori School of Northampton return to campus after attending a ceremonial opening of the rail trail underpass beneath the railroad between Woodmont Road and King Street in Northampton on Thursday. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack rides an electric bike from city of Northampton's ValleyBike Share program through the bicycle/pedestrian underpass that links Woodmont Street, seen behind her, and King Street in Northampton on Thursday, June 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack and Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, seen at right, complete a ride through the bicycle/pedestrian underpass after a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the new tunnel in Northampton on Thursday, June 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, second from left, prepares to ride through the new bicycle/pedestrian underpass beneath the rail line between Woodmont and King Streets in Northampton on Thursday, June 7, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



For the Gazette
Friday, June 08, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Since November, community members have used the new railroad underpass off King Street to cross the tracks that divide the city’s rail trail network.

Local government officials, Massachusetts Department of Transportation staff and community members gathered on Thursday to officially celebrate the completion of the $4.4 million project that connects a section of the Mass Central/Norwottuck Rail Trail between King Street and Woodmont Road. As they marked the occasion, cyclists rode through the underpass, taking advantage of the convenience and ease of getting from one side of the rail trail to the other without having to pick up their bikes, walk across the railroad tracks and go through a hole in a fence as was previously the case.

“The underpass is an investment in safety,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack, who noted that in the past month there have been two fatalities in eastern Massachusetts from people walking along railroad tracks. “No one is going to be putting themselves at risk anymore.”

A group of students and teachers from Montessori School of Northampton came to show their appreciation for the new structure. Amalia Guerra, 11, said that she used to cross the railroad tracks with her family when they went on bike rides.

“I remember it used to be annoying to lift your bike up and carry it across the tracks,” Amalia said. “It was always the worst part of the ride.”

She added that she was happy the underpass was created because government officials “stepped into citizens’ shoes” to see what was needed in the community.

Corey Hadden, a teacher at Montessori School of Northampton who rides to work with a toddler in a trailer, said he is glad the underpass was built not only for the convenience and safety aspects, but also because it brings the community together.

“It really connects the community,” he said. “It felt like there was a barrier before.”

Hadden also noted that now it will be easier for Montessori classes to walk to field trips from the school’s location on Bates Street.

The underpass is the hub of the rail trail network, with 16 miles of trail to the west and 11 miles of trail to the east.

Mayor David J. Narkewicz said that the city of Northampton is taking steps to encourage bicycle transportation, such as the upcoming launch of ValleyBike Share, which will serve Northampton, Amherst, Holyoke, South Hadley and Springfield. In addition, Northampton has contracted The Pedal People, a local bicycle-powered trash cooperative to do trash and recycling pick-up in the city’s downtown.