State won’t budge on having two Route 9 multi-use paths in Hadley project

  • Route 9 in Hadley GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/5/2021 10:12:10 AM

HADLEY — State officials remain committed to having multi-use paths for bicyclists and pedestrians on both sides of a reconstructed Route 9 between Hadley center and the shopping malls.

Despite an appeal from the Select Board to remove one of these 8-foot-wide paths from the $25 million project, state Department of Transportation employees told the board Wednesday that both shared paths are necessary in the project that is expected to go out to bid in September.

DOT District 2 Project Development Engineer Richard Masse said all construction work on highways in the state needs to comply with the 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act. That Massachusetts law, focused on climate change, requires that transportation by means other than automobiles be offered as part of projects as a way to get statewide greenhouse gas emissions levels in 1990 cut by 80% by 2050.

The latest plans for the 2.4-mile-long stretch of road show three 11-foot vehicle travel lanes — one in each direction and a dedicated turn lane — with narrow shoulders to reduce the speeds of vehicles, and protection for the multi-use path with a 6½-foot green buffer and curb.

While the Select Board has suggested people use the Norwottuck Rail Trail as much as possible, Masse said that is not a suitable substitute for the multi-use paths, as it doesn’t provide access to all businesses and homes along the corridor, even with some spurs from the rail trail.

Select Board member Joyce Chunglo said she is worried for the safety of people who might use the new path. “I’m distressed about that,” Chunglo said.

Chunglo also sees too much pavement in the project, even with just one vehicular travel lane in each direction.

“I just think having 8 feet on both sides of the main road is an astronomical amount of land that you’re taking for bikes and walking to go up Route 9,” Chunglo said.

Erik Kristensen, supervisor of rights-of-way for DOT Districts 1 and 2, said he has spoken to several property owners on Route 9 who like the two multi-use paths, observing that customers at an automobile service shop wouldn’t be confined to the waiting room and pedestrian access to an ice cream stand will be easier.

“In the end, they understand it will be a good system,” Kristensen said.

The project is likely to begin with a long-simmering debate unresolved between the Select Board and the state over the responsibility of winter maintenance of the sidewalks on Route 9, many of them built in recent years by the state.

In another change that will affect how people commute through Hadley, and the board’s efforts to have those traveling between the University of Massachusetts and Interstate 91 stay on Routes 9 and 47, the board voted to have Department of Public Works Director Chris Okafor place three speed tables and post new 25 mph speed limit signs on North Lane.

This will likely be in place along the shortcut between Amherst and Northampton when winter weather ends. Warner Brothers of Sunderland is supposed to handle the work.

Previously, the board advocated that the “no turn on red” signs from Route 47/Middle Street onto Route 9 be removed. Those signs have since been taken down.


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