Three-lane design favored option for Northampton’s downtown


Staff Writer
Published: 5/25/2021 8:53:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — An ongoing effort to redesign Main Street took a significant step forward Tuesday when Mayor David Narkewicz announced that he has picked a three-lane design for the busy thoroughfare for further study.

The mayor, who has called Main Street’s redesign a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity, selected what’s known as “Alternative Three” from among four options that have been studied as part of the so-called Picture Main Street project.

This option calls for three lanes for car travel — one lane in each direction with a third lane for left turns. The idea would also preserve angled parking, expand the sidewalks and create continuous separated bike lanes.

A presentation of a more refined version of the plan is set to take place in June.

“I think it appealed to a pretty broad swath of stakeholders,” said Narkewicz, referring to the three-lane option. He noted that some 70% of the 1,300 people who filled out an online survey for Picture Main Street chose this option, which was also preferred by those who attended a public forum.

Other options under consideration were Alternative One, which called for four lanes of traffic, angled parking, some bike lanes, and more narrow sidewalks, and “1B,” a variation on the first design that would eliminate the bike lane to create wider sidewalks. Option Two would also have four lanes for traffic, parallel parking, expanded sidewalks and some bike lanes.

Narkewicz noted the three-lane plan is the culmination of multiple years of study, with three different engineering firms and dozens of public forums and meetings having tackled the topic of the future of downtown.

Alternative Three provides more space for such things as pedestrian and bike accommodations, outdoor dining and commerce, greenery and trees, expanded public space, snow storage and green infrastructure. At the signalized intersections at New South/State streets and King/Pleasant streets, additional vehicle travel lanes would be added to manage turning movements while maintaining on-street parking and separated bike lanes, according to the Picture Main Street study. The plan also preserves on-street parking, although the amount would be reduced by approximately 18%.

“Downtowns thrive when they’re fun places to shop and eat,” said Wayne Feiden, the city’s director of planning and sustainability.

Feiden also said that discussion about the redesign started about a dozen years ago.

Alternative Three is now being refined by the city’s engineering consultants, Toole Design, and on June 24 at 6 p.m. a more detailed version of the redesign will be presented at a Picture Main Street Project public meeting.

Construction is set to take place in federal fiscal year 2024, with more than $16 million worth of state and federal money set aside for it.

Narkewicz is not running for re-election this year, and has no plans to be mayor when ground is broken on the project.

“I’ll look forward to seeing the final product,” the mayor said. “I feel like I’ve carried out my role.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at
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