North Adams Ashuwillticook Trail Extension - Bike/Pedestrian Path
Linking Williamstown and North Adams with a new bike/pedestrian path
The Town of Williamstown and the City of North Adams, in partnership with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), have received a planning grant from the National Scenic Byway Program to continue work on a bicycle/walking trail that will connect the downtown areas of the two communities. The grant has been split into two components, where the Town of Williamstown is taking the lead on engineering design, and the BRPC is taking the lead on finalizing the bike/ped route through North Adams.
As envisioned, the bike/ped trail that is developed will one day serve as a northern extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and, if the extensions were fully realized, this would offer local residents over 20 miles of dedicated pathway. The path would serve as a community asset, providing a place for outdoor recreation, a safe route for families, a means for running errands, and a place to meet neighbors. A recreational path would also serve as a driver for economic development, connecting tourist destinations such Heritage State Park and MoCA to the Clark Art Institute and Williams College. The path itself could become a tourist destination, similar to the bike paths found on Cape Cod.
Locating an accessible bike/ped trail that will connect the two downtown areas will be a challenge. Locating the existing portions of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail was relatively simple, as the slope was gentle and the route traveled along an abandoned railroad bed. Locating a similar trail in the heavily-developed Hoosic River valley will involve winding our way through complex terrain. Logistically the route will need to minimize conflicts with the river and its floodplains, wetlands, a heavily-traveled commercial Route 2 and the active Pan Am Rail. The trail will also have to minimize impacts to rare species habitat, which covers extensive areas within the area of study. To be cost effective the route will also need to river crossings and minimize the amount of land or easements that have to be acquired for the right-of-way.
Phase II: Design
Beginning in summer 2015 the Town of Williamstown is beginning work on Phase II of the project. This segment of the trail is approximately two miles in length and will travel from the Cole Avenue area eastward to The Spruces property. For this segment of the trail we expect to achieve full engineering designs and secure legal easements for the route where necessary. Construction funds are obligated once 100% design has been reached.
The North Adams end of the trail is approximately 2.5 miles, and here the terrain and private property issues are far more complex. On this segment of the trail we will continue field work to finally secure the route. Our work will result in a Final North Adams Feasibility and Preliminary Design Report, with trail alignments, draft easements where necessary and designs for the complex sections of the trail, such as river and railroad crossings.
Throughout the project we will be asking residents and neighborhood groups to help us identify the final location and design of the trail. We will seek public input on the western portion as the design process moves all the way to final design, permitting and easements. We will also focus very intently on seeking local input from residents and neighborhood groups to secure the final route through the challenging areas in North Adams.
Once the engineering has been completed, government transportation funding has been set aside to begin construction of the bike/ped trail. The Williamstown segment of the trail has been finalized and engineers are already working on design, so it is likely that construction of this segment can proceed more quickly than in North Adams, where the city is still struggling to finalize the route.