Walking tour highlights Pleasant Street changes

  • Mayor David Narkewicz talks about the renovations to Pleasant street during the walking tour Thursday afternoon. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Mayor David Narkewicz points out the proto type for the bike share during the walking tour of Pleasant Streets new renovations Thursday afternoon. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • One of the new raised cross walks on Pleasant Street. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Wayne Feiden, Director of Planning and Sustainability, talks with Arnie Levinson during the walking tour of Pleasant Streets new renovations. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A cyclist uses the new Cycle Track during a walking tour of Pleasant Street’s new design features Thursday afternoon in Northampton. Below, Mayor David Narkewicz points out the prototype for the bike share. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS PHOTOS

  • Participants on the walking tour of Pleasant Streets new renovations walk over the Cycle Track. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Participants on the walking tour of Pleasant Streets new renovations walk over the Cycle Track. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/8/2017 12:06:21 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Recent changes to Pleasant Street designed to make the thoroughfare more walkable and cyclable were highlighted in a tour Thursday afternoon that drew an attentive crowd of several dozen people.

Tour leader Wayne Feiden, Northampton’s director of planning and sustainability, said a major goal of the work has been to slow down the speed of traffic. Major changes that made this possible were the narrowing of the street with curb extensions and cycle tracks.

However, Feiden also said there was no desire to limit the approximately 17,000 cars that go down Pleasant Street a day.

“We don’t want to change that,” he said. “That’s the lifeblood of Northampton.”

The work, funded by a Massachusetts Department of Transportation Complete Streets grant of about $400,000 and approximately $1 million of a MassWorks grant, is designed to make the section of Pleasant Street from Hockanum Road to Hampton Avenue into a so-called “complete street,” which is a street that is designed to be accessible to all people, regardless of their age, ability or mode of transportation. The rest of the $2.5 million MassWorks grant was used on related infrastructure.

Mayor David Narkewicz welcomed the assembled crowd to the tour and gave some background on the project, before turning it over to Feiden, who led the tour itself and fielded questions.

Before going over the various alterations, Feiden noted how they were designed to work together in tandem.

“No one thing we’re doing would be successful by itself,” said Feiden.

Filling in curb cuts along the affected area of Pleasant Street was another part of the effort to make the area more walkable. Putting into place a raised intersection and crosswalk to slow cars and increase pedestrian visibility, also played into this.

City Councilor Jim Nash praised the results of the changes, saying there had been efforts to promote traffic-calming along the Pleasant Street corridor for years.

“This is really, really great,” he said.

MassDOT District 2 Highway Director Patrick Paul offered congratulations on the project, saying what Northampton had done was a model for the commonwealth.

Multiple people on the tour were interested in the Live 155 and the Valley Community Development Corp’s housing development in the old lumberyard site nearby, both of which are under construction off Pleasant Street.

“We wanted to make infrastructure improvements to help leverage and improve these two big projects,” said Feiden, noting that working to enhance these developments had been part of the city’s pitch for the MassDOT grants that made the Pleasant Street redevelopments possible.

A representative for each of the project’s developers answered questions from the public about them, which included parking accommodations for both projects and the prices of the Valley CDC’s units.

Feiden said a big reason why the changes to Pleasant Street were made was to encourage more economic development along the street. Additional parking was also created as part of the project, and new bike racks were installed.

Feiden also noted that new street trees were put in as part of the project, as were rain gardens that are designed to absorb stormwater.

Disability concerns

One set of changes that has not been well-received by everyone are the new steps that were put into place in front of Hugo’s Cafe and Ye’ Ol Watering Hole. Speaking before the tour, Emma Cornwell, 26, who uses a wheelchair full-time, said they made it impossible for her to enter the buildings.

Feiden said the steps were redone because there had been steps there previously. He said the city had considered putting a ramp in, but was prevented by infrastructure and sidewalk narrowing issues. “We weren’t able to,” he said.

Cornwell did, however, express general approval of the sidewalk improvements.

“It’s definitely, ultimately going to make my life easier,” she said.

At the same time, Cornwell did note that construction on Pleasant Street has forced her at times to go into the street, because there wasn’t a pathway for a disabled person.

“That has been sort of of frustrating,” she said. When asked about this, Feiden said the contractor had addressed this concern after a complaint was brought to the town.

Also in attendance on the tour were City Engineer David Veleta and City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra.

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