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Norwottuck Rail Trail reconstruction in Hadley begins, trail sections closing

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Cyclists negotiate cracks in the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Hadley where tree roots have broken the pavement in this March photo.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Cyclists negotiate cracks in the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Hadley where tree roots have broken the pavement in this March photo. Purchase photo reprints »

The section of trail between East and South Maple streets will be closed for about 10 days while crews begin root cutting, tree and erosion control work.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation is recommending bike commuters take alternative routes around the closed trail and has posted suggested routes on its website, along with other information about the project.

The short-term action next week will be followed by an approximately two-month trail closure along an adjacent, 1.5-mile section between Cross Path Road near the bridge over the Connecticut River to East Street in Hadley beginning Aug. 7. That span, which will be excavated and paved during that time, is not expected to reopen until early October.

When that’s done, the 2-mile section between East and South Maple streets will be closed again for excavating and paving during October and November.

“Primarily, the closures this fall will be in Hadley and Northampton,” said Paul Jahnige, director of the Greenways and Trails Program at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. “And next year, primarily in Amherst.”

The state DCR is overseeing the estimated $4 million state and federally funded, 8.5-mile trail reconstruction between the Elwell Recreation Area on Damon Road in Northampton to Station Road in Amherst. The contractor, C&A Construction of Ludlow, has begun survey work and opened a field office, according to DCR.

The trail is 20 years old and the project is designed to not only upgrade the trail and improve safety, but eliminate embedded glass shards in the surface and tree root protrusion that has caused problems for cyclists and other trail users for years.

The trail is being widened up to 10 feet in some areas and the Route 9 tunnel is getting realigned. Parking is being added and four bridges are being rebuilt and redecked along the way, including the longest span over the Connecticut River bridge under a separate state contract.

The bridge redecking and repairs over the Connecticut River are expected to begin in mid-August and last into early December.

“That’s obviously a big one because that closes down the Damon Road parking lot and the Connecticut River bridge,” Jahnige said.

Jahnige said the state DCR is doing all that it can to minimize the duration of the trail closings while getting the project done in a timely fashion.

After the winter, work is scheduled to resume around April 1, moving along the trail from South Maple Street in Hadley to Station Road in Amherst. The entire project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014.

To assist those who use the rail trail, the state DCR has set up a listserv that provides rail trail project updates, closure and construction schedules as well as suggested alternative routes for commuters who use the trail.

The state agency plans to send out project updates informing the public of any upcoming meetings, schedule changes, or project milestones for those who subscribe to the listserv.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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