Bill allocates money for bike trail in Southampton, track and tennis courts in Belchertown

  • Allison Smith rides her bike on the Manhan Rail Trail in Northampton, last summer. An enviornmental bond bill approved by the Senate calls for Southampton to get $800,000 for a larger project to build a rail trail that connects to the Manhan in Easthampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 7/17/2018 11:08:45 PM

NORTHAMPTON — More than $2 billion included in an energy and environmental bond bill adopted by the Massachusetts Senate could pay for a series of projects in the region, including work on a new bike trail in Southampton, resurfacing track and tennis courts in Belchertown and maintenance and improvements to the Mount Tom State Reservation in Holyoke.

The bond bill, which provides money for climate change adaption programs and improving existing climate resilient infrastructures, was recently approved by a 37-0 vote. Its contents must still be reconciled with a House version, and then it will be up to Gov. Charlie Baker to decide if and when to release money for the projects.

In announcing the funding, state Sen. Donald Humason, R-Westfield, said the funding in the bill would “provide essential resources to our local communities as they look to improve storm water management, maintain and improve parks and waterways, and make necessary repairs and enhancements to local bridges and bike paths.”

The bike trail, also known as the Southampton Greenway project, would lead to the conversion of an old railbed that, when built, would connect with the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton.

Humason’s amendment includes $850,000 for the bike path.

“This is a very positive thing for Southampton,” said Select Board member Charles Kaniecki.

Southampton still must acquire the railbed from the Pinsly Railroad Co., operator of the Pioneer Valley Railroad. Southampton Town Administrator Edward Gibson said that purchase will be for $340,000.

Kaniecki said there will also be more than $800,000 to complete designs, followed by the estimated construction cost between $4.5 and $6 million.

About $6 million is available in the Transportation Improvement Program over the next five years for construction of the Greenway bike path.

Easthampton, Belchertown

An additional $100,000 would go toward the removal of a pump house at Lower Mill Pond in Easthampton, an amendment also supported by state Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley.

The pump house in Easthampton once provided fire protection to the mills around Pleasant and Ferry streets in that city, but has been out of service for decades, said Joseph Pipcyznski, director of the city’s Public Works Department.

“It’s something that hasn’t been used for the past 35 years,” Pipczynski said. “It’s something that needs to come down.”

An amendment by state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, adds $175,000 for improvements at the Belchertown school complex. The six tennis courts have not been resurfaced since they were constructed in 2001, even though this is a recommended course of action every five to eight years to prevent cracking.

“Belchertown’s track and tennis courts are a valuable public resource, open to members of the public in addition to students,” Lesser said.

The bond bill also includes $800,000 to identify, map, market, develop and construct mountain biking trails in the four counties that make up western Massachusetts, $600,000 for stormwater drainage management at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport and $500,000 for repairs and reconstruction of the Ashfield Lake Dam.

The House version of the bill includes $500,000 that would go toward carbon-neutral fuels research, much of which is taking place at the Institute for Applied Life Sciences at UMass Amherst, and an additional $500,000 to assist with the development of better component materials that could reduce the cost to create what are known as liquid-flow batteries, an emerging technology is happening at the UMass Lowell campus. Both were amendments from Solomon Goldstein-Rose, I-Amherst.

Another $35,000 is included in the House version for parking lot access improvements on Route 47 in South Hadley for the River to Range Trail. That was sponsored by Scibak.

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