Officials: Rail underpass in Northampton on budget and slated to open in October

  • A railroad underpass near Woodmont Road and King Street is scheduled to be complete this October. GAZETTE STAFF/Jack Suntrup

  • Construction workers on the railroad underpass worksite Thursday June 22 in Northampton. Jack SuntrupGAZETTE STA

  • Stephanie Pollack (left) and David Narkewicz (right) discuss the railroad underpass plans. Jack Suntrup—Jack Suntrup

Published: 6/22/2017 9:59:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The railroad underpass off King Street is set to be completed on schedule and on budget, project officials said at the work site Thursday.

Tim Doherty, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s director for the project, said the underpass is still set to come in at $4.4 million and be completed by the end of October.

Of the $4.4 million price tag, about 78 percent came from the federal government, with the balance from state coffers, according to MassDOT. 

Doherty, state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and others looked over the site Thursday morning. The long-planned project is supposed to connect the Mass Central Rail Trail between King Street and Woodmont Road.

As it stands, the railroad tracks near King Street cut off cyclists traveling west toward Woodmont and King. To reach the trail network again, cyclists either detour to North Street or cross the railroad tracks through a hole in fencing near Woodmont, a dangerous option.

“This is really the crossroads” of a regional bike trail system, Narkewicz said at the site. “This is a really key project for connecting the bike trail network.”

As for people crossing the tracks?

“We want them to be safe and we want to be able to let them continue biking without having to make detours,” he said.

Pollack, who spent Thursday in western Massachusetts, said the project may look small but accomplishes three objectives: ensuring safety, encouraging more high-speed rail routes and connecting the region’s trail system.

“When you have literally a rail trail here and one right on the other side” people cross the tracks,” she said, “and it’s not safe.”

“We have one high-speed train a day but we’d like to get more service on this in the future, and knowing that we have a safe way for people — pedestrians and cyclists — to get under it makes it more possible to do that kind of rail planning.

“We need to be thinking in networks,” Pollack said of bikeways. “This is a critically important connection for the rail network.”

In addition to visiting Northampton, Pollack spent the day MassDOT staff in Lenox.

She also sought updates on the state’s initiative to replace manual toll booths with electric tolling, and then refurbishing the Mass Pike from the New York border to Boston “so that by the end of this year, you’ll never know we had tolls on the turnpike.”

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