Amherst DPW pitches road, sidewalk safety projects

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2021 1:19:49 PM

AMHERST — A section of North Pleasant Street between North Amherst village center and the University of Massachusetts campus could see significant improvements for pedestrians, while a small portion of the same road would become one way near Kendrick Park in downtown Amherst.

The two projects were presented to the Town Council Monday by Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring.

Mooring said enhanced sidewalks on North Pleasant would make the walk to and from UMass safer from the numerous apartment complexes, including North Village, Puffton Village, Brandywine, Presidential and Crestview.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said no money is set aside for the work. Plans show an 8-foot sidewalk on the west side and a 5- to 6-foot sidewalk on the other side, with bus stops removed and repositioned.

Mooring said the work is planned after a long-planned multi-use path envisioned to run from North Amherst center, then west of the apartment complexes to the UMass campus, failed to move forward once the town faced challenges of getting rights of way and permission from property owners.

In 2011, Town Meeting authorized $50,000 from the Community Preservation Act account to fund its share of the study of developing this off-road path as a new recreational trail along a cinder road beginning off Governors Drive.

The exact scope of the changes to North Pleasant is not yet known, but could also include crosswalks and possibly a roundabout where North Village Apartments, the family housing for UMass graduate students, is being rebuilt.

District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen said adding streetlights should be considered due to frequent complaints about the road and sidewalks being too dark at night.

Meantime, the one-way idea for North Pleasant is to have vehicles exiting from McClellan Street only be able to head north toward Triangle Street, rather than south toward Hallock Street. 

With an anticipated increase in families visiting downtown for the new playground being constructed at Kendrick Park, the town greenspace, this would mean more parking and protection of trees .

“Making North Pleasant Street one-way from McClellan Street to Triangle Street will provide for the opportunity to introduce traffic-calming measures, reduce traffic and create additional parking,” Mooring and Bockelman wrote in a memo to the council.

This could lead to the addition of 25 new on-street parallel parking spaces in the vicinity.

Both projects were referred to the council’s Town Services and Outreach Committee for study and hearings, with reports due back Sept. 13 and Oct. 4.

Back-in parking spaces in downtown Amherst, experimental since spring, will continue to be on the street through at least Nov. 30. The six back-in spaces replace four parallel spaces on the east side of North Pleasant Street near the 37-51 block, including Antonio’s Pizza.

The town’s first venture with back-in spaces has been deemed a success so far as the spaces have been used regularly and no concerns have been expressed about challenges in using them.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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