Hadley Route 9 widening project held up over winter sidewalk clearing

  • Route 9 in Hadley, Hampshire Mall. Josh Kuckens

Staff Writer
Published: 8/22/2020 11:16:08 AM

HADLEY — Easements needed from the town as part of a state project to widen Route 9 from Hadley center east to the shopping malls are being held up over concerns about how new sidewalks will be maintained, especially during the winter.

The Select Board opted against approving the easements Wednesday for affected town-owned properties at the northeast corner of Middle Street and Route 9 and a strip of existing sidewalk in the vicinity of the American Legion, at 162 Russell St., and the Coach property, at 156 Russell St., until it is clear that the town will not be burdened with clearing the new accessible sidewalks of snow and ice.

Last year, the state Department of Transportation informed Town Administrator David Nixon that winter sidewalk maintenance would be handled by the state, though there is uncertainty over whether this will continue.

Board members told Erik Kristensen, right-of-way manager for Districts 1 and 2 of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, that providing assurances about these sidewalks would allow the easements to move forward.

Kristensen said the series of small takings are needed to improve sidewalks along Route 9, and that more than 45 property owners with whom he has spoken are receptive to the project. The state’s mandate, Kristensen said, is for accessible sidewalks and bicycle lanes when roads are rebuilt. Winter maintenance is not in his purview.

Nixon explained that the town has looked at developing a local bylaw to shift the burden of clearing snow and ice from the town to local property owners, but this has proven to be problematic.

“The challenges we face are a patchwork of commercial and private properties along Route 9,” Nixon said. Some businesses have complained that it is an unfair burden for them to take care of plowing and sanding, he said. This includes management at the Hampshire Mall, where the building is set far back from the road and few customers are likely to be using the sidewalks in the winter months.

The $26.16 million widening project, expected to begin sometime in winter 2021, would extend 2.4 miles on Route 9, and a half-mile of South Maple and North Maple streets. In addition to four lanes of traffic, there would be dedicated turning lanes.

As part of the project, the town will replace aging water and sewer infrastructure at an anticipated cost of $672,390. This spending could be brought to annual Town Meeting next spring.

In addition to easements and right-of-way acquisitions, the next steps for the Route 9 project are environmental permitting and final cost estimate development.


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