Work starts today on 6-week Elm Street project in Northampton; motorists can expect delays

Last modified: Monday, June 09, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — Summer in New England brings with it traditions like asparagus, second guessing everything the Red Sox do and dealing with road construction.

And, the summer of 2014 doesn’t look like it’ll be any different.

The latest roadwork that could potentially add minutes to commutes in and out of the city begins Monday and is expected to last for about the next six weeks.

The project involves digging a trench across Elm Street between Smith College’s John M. Greene Hall and the Cutter-Ziskind dormitory near the intersection of Elm and Prospect streets.

According to the city’s Department of Public Works, the trench will be used to run utility lines to the dormitories. The work is expected to last throughout June and most of July.

The work this summer is phase 2 of the dorm renovation project, according to Consigli Construction, one of the contracting companies involved in the dorm renovations.

Work will typically be done between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., according to the city.

The work is a Smith College project and questions or concerns about the work should be directed to Charlie Conant, Smith College facilities management senior project manager, at 585-2424.

Phase 1 was completed last summer. In phase 2, the interior of the buildings will be renovated and a new courtyard will be added, according to Consigli.

Signs posted at the construction site ask workers to keep noise to a minimum, not swear, not smoke, and not engage in any improper conduct.

Signs posted in the construction zone warn drivers to expect delays. Those signs were the only notice of the impending construction people interviewed by the Gazette Sunday received, if they received any at all.

A statement from the Northampton DPW was posted online Friday giving details of the work.

John Spencer has lived on Elm Street for 24 years and doesn’t see this coming summer as any more construction-intensive than others, even with the emergency repairs to a section of Interstate 91 that shut down the northbound Exit 18 on-ramp, which has forced commuters to find an alternative route since late May.

Spencer said work that was done to resurface Elm Street about five summers ago was much more intense and disruptive, so he doesn’t think the new project will be much of a burden.

Nick Davis, of 211 Elm St., said road construction in his neighborhood is rare, but there is occasional landscaping and debris clearing done by the college that can occasionally slow traffic down.

Davis, a full-time student at Holyoke Community College, said he doesn’t mind the occasional inconvenience, noting that the landscaping beautifies the neighborhood surrounding the campus.

If the new work causes traffic backups along Elm Street, Davis said he isn’t too concerned because he often uses his bike to travel into town and carpools or commutes via bus to classes.

Saadat Virk, manager of the Smith Corner Convenience Plus store at the corner of West and Green streets, also hadn’t heard about the nearby construction but isn’t concerned about it impacting his business.

Virk, who opened the store about a year ago, said business typically slows down once students leave for the semester. Most of his business comes from foot traffic and is not impacted by nearby traffic.

“I can handle another six weeks,” Virk said.

According to the city, the work on Elm Street will require there to be two-way traffic at all times. Police details will maintain traffic flow, but drivers are warned to expect delays and seek alternative routes, if possible.

Northampton Director of Public Works Ned Huntley said the city isn’t recommending specific alternate routes to avoid the construction.

However, eastbound drivers heading into Northampton on Elm can avoid the construction zone by taking a left on to Henshaw Avenue to eventually connect with State Street.

Westbound travelers can take State Street or Bedford Terrace to connect with side streets that eventually lead back to Elm heading toward Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Jennifer Allen, who has lived on Crescent Street for about seven years, said headaches that come with summer construction are a small price to pay.

“We enjoy living in this neighborhood,” she said. “It’s just part of living anywhere.”

Bob Dunn can be reached at


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