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Some Amherst residents don’t want multi-use path on Pine Street

Despite a unanimous advisory from the Public Transportation and Bicycle Committee that the roadway include a multi-use path when it is reconstructed, both people who walk and bike along the roadway told the Public Works Committee Thursday that they don’t want it in the plans.

“Nothing feels safe on the multi-use path,” said Ellen Pile, of 110 Bridge St.

Pile said she worries that bicyclists going at a high rate of speed might have trouble avoiding people walking in the multi-use path, especially parents walking with toddlers or pushing strollers.

“It would be an enormous waste of money to do the multi-use path,” said Vincent O’Connor of Summer Street, who has lived in North Amherst for 40 years and been riding his bicycle there for as long. “It will actually make Pine Street less safe.”

O’Connor said most bicyclists would likely not use the multi-use path and would prefer bike lanes in the street.

Residents who live on and near Pine Street understand the deteriorating condition of the roadway and acknowledged that something has to be done when installation and repair of water and sewer lines are completed by July.

Marcy Sala of 161 Pine St. said a sidewalk, at minimum, is essential so that people can more safely walk to recreation sites like Puffer’s Pond and Mill River Recreation Area and shops like Cushman Market.

The current conditions are not conducive to pedestrians. “It’s dangerous,” Sala said. “It’s really dangerous.”

While the town will put a base coat of pavement on the roadway this summer, at a $700,000 cost, DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring said he needs to know by July what the future roadway will look like.

The latest plan drawn up by town engineers shows an 8-foot wide multi-use path that runs along the north side of the roadway from its intersection with North Pleasant Street in North Amherst center to the intersection with East Pleasant Street. The travel lanes would be between 11 and 12 feet for the entire length

But Mooring said this is just a preliminary plan that needs more engineering because of the tight confines of the road. “It sort of fits,” Mooring said.

Complications are numerous along the roadway. A portion is bound by the Mill River Conservation Area, another portion is constrained by land that is in the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction program, and utility poles may need to be moved in other places. The DPW is also trying to minimize the number of trees that would have to come down. With these considerations in mind, there is little to no separation between the multi-use path and the roadway in certain places.

Mooring said plans showing sidewalks and bicycle lanes on both sides have also been unveiled. “The more we look at it the more frustrated we get,” Mooring said.

Jack Hirsch of 400 Flat Hills Road said he would prefer a traditional sidewalk on one side of the road and let the bicyclists continue to ride in the street. Jeffrey Kassis of 80 Morgan Circle, who said he logs 3,000 miles on his bicycle, said he would not ride on the mult-use path.

With The Retreat student housing project proposed for Cushman village, Mooring said there are no avenues for widening Pine Street in the future no matter how much traffic is on the roadway,

The Public Works Committee members made no decision, but appeared to understand the need to deliberate to get it right, as the rebuilding is expected to cost $2.2 to $2.4 million, or what member Charles Moran said is three times as much state chapter 90 road money as the town gets annually. Mooring expects the town to issue a bond for the work.

Funding for the Pine Street project was first attempted through the MassWorks grant program, an infrastructure program that pays for improvements that provides economic development. But the town was twice rejected

While rebuilding Pine Street is on the state transportation plan, Mooring said that source of funding is at least five years into the future.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get the MassWorks grant the first two times,” Mooring said.

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