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Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission

The following proposals and descriptions of existing facilities in Berkshire County have been submitted to the bicycle facilities inventory.

Existing facilities

Many commenters agreed that Berkshire County has many roads that are attractive for bicycling. The southern part of the county, in particular, with its wide, level valley and rolling hills, is crisscrossed with scenic, lightly-traveled roads described by commenters as "world-class bicycling." In addition, many segments of major highways have wide shoulders and are excellent as through bicycling routes. Berkshire County also offers challenging climbs for riders who seek them. The most famous of these is the road over Mount Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts.

On the other hand, many segments of highway have no shoulders, and some narrow, secondary roads are experiencing increases in traffic volume. The most difficult conditions for bicyclists appear to be in and near the two major population centers of Pittsfield and North Adams.

There is at present only one designated bicycle facility in Berkshire County. This is Butler Road on the grounds of the new Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, which has been closed to motor vehicles.

Proposed projects

The following proposals are included in the bicycle facilities inventory.

Trails proposals

Housatonic River Greenway, Pittsfield

A linear park along the east and west branches of the Housatonic River would include three segments of bicycle path.

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail

This trail would potentially run from Coltsville Corners on the east side of Pittsfield to North Adams, following a railbed which runs roughly parallel to Massachusetts Route 8. At this time, the rail line is only abandoned from Lanesborough to Adams.

West Stockbridge-Great Barrington

An abandoned railbed runs from the town center of West Stockbridge most of the way to the town center of Great Barrington. It was proposed and funded as a bicycle trail in the late 1970’s, but local concerns about potential misuse by motorcyclists stopped the project.

Huckleberry Trolley

An abandoned trolley railbed runs from Lee across the Berkshires to Blandford, in the Pioneer Valley region. This railbed has potential in the long term as a through route. It crosses the Massachusetts Turnpike several times, and the crossings would have to be accommodated either with overpasses or with alternate routings.

Trail of Peace: North Adams, Williamstown

A citizens’ group has proposed a bicycle path along the active rail line between Williamstown and North Adams. This is technically feasible, as only one track remains on the two-track right of way. Bicyclists and pedestrians already informally access the railbed. "Trails with rails" have been built elsewhere along active rail rights-of-way, for example, the Southwest Corridor linear park in Boston.

Streets, roads and highways

Commenters generally agreed that there are many excellent roads for bicycling in Berkshire County. Bicycling is, however, impeded because there are in many cases no attractive roads to specific destinations. The most sensitive areas are as follows:

Lenox-Pittsfield corridor

Many commenters described the difficulty of travel between Lenox and Pittfield. Shoulders on Route 7, the only major arterial, are of variable width, and a proposed reconstruction project may narrow shoulders in many places. There is only one parallel road; it is narrow, hilly, and heavily traveled.

Pittsfield streets

Several commenters suggested routes through Pittsfield, and recommended specific improvements. Reasonably attractive through routes are available in many parts of the city, but there are important missing links and barriers, especially in the downtown area.

Highways and town roads.

Many segments of major highways in Berkshire County have wide shoulders, making them attractive for bicycling. This is especially true of Route 102; Route 7 from Pittsfield to Route 43; and Route 8 between Pittsfield and Adams. However, several important segments of highway have become less inviting for bicycling as motor vehicle traffic and adjacent development have increased. Many secondary highways and town roads have no shoulders but carry moderate to heavy traffic.

Cross-state routes

See the section of this report on cross-state routes for more detail on the following routes:

The westernmost north-south bicycle touring route lies entirely within the Berkshire Valley, and the two east-west routes pass through it. The north-south route largely follows the one developed under contract to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management (DEM) in 1993.

Both east-west routes pass through the Berkshire region. The southern one mostly follows Route 102 and Route 20. The northern one enters on Route 43, passes north of Pittsfield, and exits on Route 116 and River Road from Savoy into Windsor.

Several scenic side trips are offered for both routes.

Berkshire County region priorities

None of the proposals for local facilities described above is near realization. The Housatonic Valley Greenway and the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail are still gathering support which could lead to funding for design and construction. The Pittsfield bypass, though its design is substantially complete, has run into local opposition; its future is unclear.

It appears that the greatest potential for utility bicycling by Berkshire County residents may be in Pittsfield, where the large population concentration results in many trips with short travel distances. However, much work needs to be done to make bicycling a more viable transportation choice in Pittsfield. Several commenters pointed out these issues.

The second major population center in the Berkshire Valley is the Williamstown-North Adams corridor at the northern end of the valley. Williams College generates bicycle traffic. As described in the section of this report on cross-state bicycle touring routes, improvements in the route between North Adams and Williamstown along the Hoosic River are a promising way to increase the attractiveness of bicycle travel there.

The priorities described in this section stem from the public meeting process; the priority list here is not the same as the Berkshire Valley Regional Planning Commission’s.

1) The Housatonic Valley Greenway proposal, which would create bicycle paths along several segments of the Housatonic River. This ideally would be combined with linkage to on-road segments and extensions.

2) The proposed Ashuwillticook Rail-Trail, between Pittsfield and North Adams. The southern terminus of the Ashuwillticook trail would provide bicyclists with access to the Berkshire Mall. A potential extension to Coltsville Corners shopping areas would avoid the difficult Coltsville Corners intersection. The southern extension also would link well to Pittsfield streets via lightly-traveled Crane Avenue. One of the segments of the Housatonic Valley Greenway ends very close to the potential southern terminus of the Ashuwillticook trail as well, and practical options appear to exist to link the two paths with an on-street route on an industrial connector road which could include specific bicycle-friendly features in its design. This connection might also use an existing rail underpass under heavily traveled Route 9.

3) Bicycle accommodations related to linkage from Pittsfield south to Lenox. There is a possibility that the proposed Pittsfield bypass, if it is built, would itself include bicycle-related improvements that could address this problem. As a limited-access highway, it could include a parallel bicycle path. The bypass also would run through the western section of the city and relieve traffic from the city center even if no path is constructed. In this way, the bypass could improve conditions for local travel, including bicycling, on the present Route 7 and other streets in Pittsfield.

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