State drops controversial Northampton roundabout project on North King Street

  • Looking south at the intersection of North King Street (Rt. 5), left, and Hatfield Street, right, in Northampton, where a roundabout is planned. Photographed on Thursday, June 25, 2020. —GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • A crew from Archeological Historical Services Inc., works at one of two dig sites near North King Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. In foreground, from left, are Emma Wink, Quin Harper, James Poetzinger and Jordan Tabolt. In background, using a screener, is David Leslie. —GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/18/2021 8:47:15 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The state is canceling a controversial roundabout project on North King and Hatfield streets amid opposition over the project’s impact on an archaeological site where evidence of an ancient indigenous village was discovered.

In an announcement Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said it was terminating its construction contract for the project and will undertake a re-evaluation of the project design.

“This re-evaluation will allow MassDOT to consider previously unforeseen circumstances, including a more extensive review of the impacts of any work on a local site of archaeological significance,” the agency’s press release said.

The project would have gone through a site where artifacts estimated to be at least 8,000 years old were found. Researchers excavating the site in late 2019 described it as “incredibly rare” and “of regional importance to understand that time period.”

MassDOT accepted public comment and held a public meeting about the project in February, receiving hundreds of comments about the project and its impact on the site. It is because of that feedback that MassDOT is terminating the project and re-evaluating its design, the agency said.

“The overwhelming majority of the comments raised opposition to the project due to its impacts to an archaeological site,” MassDOT said in its statement. “There has continued to be substantial public opposition towards the project that MassDOT was not able to minimize during the public process.”

In addition to public comments, more than 50,000 people signed a petition in opposition to the roundabout project. MassDOT said it is re-evaluating because of the many comments asking the agency to avoid the location of the archaeological site.

“This re-evaluation will take public opposition into account as a key evaluation criterion for all design alternatives considered,” MassDOT said.

The city of Northampton had supported the project. Wayne Feiden, director of planning and sustainability, said Tuesday that the city’s goal is to make the dangerous intersection safe.

“We hope it moves forward as quickly as it can, whatever that means,” he said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
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