Northampton draws up next phase of plans for better bicycle, pedestrian access

  • The intersection of Hockanum Road and Pleasant Street in Northampton. The city hopes to start construction this spring on improving bicycle and pedestrian access on this section of Pleasant Street. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The intersection of Hockanum Road and Pleasant Street in Northampton. The city hopes to start construction this spring on improving bicycle and pedestrian access on this section of Pleasant Street. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/31/2021 7:19:46 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city has unveiled the next phase of plans to improve access for pedestrians and bicyclists around town, including extending bike lanes on Pleasant Street, redesigning Main Street in downtown Florence, and making improvements to sidewalks and crosswalks on the approach to the Bridge Street School.

The roughly $1 million project on Pleasant Street, which will extend from the intersection with Hockanum Road down to the rotary at the intersection of Pleasant and Conz streets, is expected to get underway this spring, according to Mayor David J. Narkewicz and Planning Director Wayne Feiden.

The city also hopes to break ground this spring on work in Florence, making what Narkewicz calls “tactical improvements” to downtown that will include adding 15 new sidewalks ramps, fixing damaged sidewalks, planting new trees and adding bike racks, benches and an art installation. Estimated cost: about $400,000.

It’s all part of the city’s overall goal of not only encouraging people to walk and bicycle more but of maintaining commitment to its Climate Resilience and Regeneration Plan, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases generated by transportation by 26%.

Confronting climate change “is an important part of our long-term planning,” said Narkewicz. “Reducing our carbon footprint by making it easier for people to walk and bicycle benefits all of us.”

A public forum on both these projects is scheduled via Zoom for Tuesday at 5 p.m.: https://umass-amherst.zoom.us/j/98118657406 or (646) 876-9923 (#981-1865-7406)

‘Buffered lane’

On Pleasant Street, the plan calls for adding slightly elevated bike lanes and sidewalks — a “buffered lane,” as Feiden puts it — between Hockanum Road and the rotary, while also adding landscaping improvements along the road. The road itself will also be slightly narrowed.

The project includes adding a ValleyBike share station outside the Salvo House on nearby Conz Street, said Feiden. “All these measures together should make it easier and more appealing to bicycle in this area,” he added.

Narkewicz said the Pleasant Street work is a continuation of the city’s previous redesign to the section of the street closer to downtown, which has included adding curb extensions, improved crosswalks, and bike lanes, as well as sprucing up sidewalks and the fronts of some businesses along the road.

“The long-term goal has been to connect Pleasant Street more closely with downtown and make it more of an entrance into the city from the south,” he noted.

The work in downtown Florence, he and Feiden said, came after a series of three community forums in the village to seek ideas for a redesign of downtown. Feiden noted that one aspect of the plan includes digging new and deeper tree pits along Main Street to let the trees establish deeper roots, ideally ensuring they’ll last longer.

Funds for that project come from a combination of federal community development block grant funds, tree mitigation funds, and a city capital improvements appropriation.

A smaller project in Leeds this spring will redesign the intersection of Route 9/Haydenville Road and Leonard Street to slow traffic at that point and improve pedestrian safety.

Walking to school

The project to improve pedestrian access along both Hawley and Parsons streets is designed to encourage more children and their families to walk to Bridge Street School. Narkewicz said a number of families have moved into the new apartment building on Pleasant Street near Hawley, and the city wants to make the walk to Bridge Street School more appealing.

That project, which Feiden said could run more than $1 million, is still in the planning stages but envisions making improvements to sidewalks, including adding wheelchair ramps, and to crosswalks at Bridge Street and Pomeroy Terrace. The work is expected to be funded by federal and state transportation funds with CDBG and city funds for any required slivers of land needed for the project.

The general rule of thumb in this kind of pedestrian-based planning, Feiden said, “is that most people are willing to walk about four-tenths of a mile. If we can make improvements that would encourage people to walk maybe six-tenths of mile, that’s a step in the right direction.”

More information on these plans is available by contacting the mayor’s office at (413) 587-1249 or mayor@northamptonma.gov.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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