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Franklin County Planning Department

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

Existing facilities

Franklin County has a low population density, with only 70,000 inhabitants. There are many attractive, lightly-traveled roads in rural areas. However, much of the county is hilly, forcing through traffic onto several major highways in the valleys. Some of these, particularly Route 2 in Erving, lack the shoulders which would make them more suitable for bicycling in view of the heavy traffic which they carry.

Another concern is that of crossing the Connecticut River. Crossings are limited; one bridge in Northfield has been closed recently, and another between Sunderland and Deerfield has been reconstructed with narrow lanes which discourage its use by bicyclists.

The one major population concentration in and around Greenfield has typical urban issues for bicycle travel, with traffic volume and speed that discourage children and novices from using bicycles for transportation on many streets. There is considerable potential for bicycle transportation to and from local schools and academies.

Proposed Projects

The following proposals have been submitted to the bicycle facilities inventory.

Franklin County Bikeway

This is a comprehensive, community-based bicycle route system. It is notable for its flexible implementation, using bicycle paths, shared roadways and bicycle lanes. It potentially connects with other facilities south to Northampton and Sunderland along either bank of the Connecticut River.

Northfield Bikeway

This project has been merged into the Franklin County Bikeway and consists largely of routes on roads, including the use and improvement of one dirt road as a shared roadway.

Other trails projects

A proposal was submitted for a trail along the Miller’s River from Montague to Winchendon; several corridors for potential trails were described without any active proposal. These included descriptions of an abandoned railroad bed from Athol to New Salem, ending at the Quabbin Reservoir, and abandoned segments of roadway along Route 202.

Rural roads and highways

One commenter has mapped a set of four bicycle tours on rural roads in the hill towns west of Greenfield, partly on highways and partly on local rural roads. Another sent detailed descriptions of the conditions of the major highways. They both agreed generally that many town roads are suitable for bicycle touring, with very low traffic volume. However, the condition of the numbered highways varies widely, from Route 112 between Ashfield and Goshen, which is excellent for bicycling with its wide shoulders, to parts of Routes 2 and 5/10 among others, where more pavement width would allow them to accommodate bicycle use better, in view of the heavy motor vehicle traffic which they carry. Improvements to highways were rated as of importance by several commenters.

Cross-state routes

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

One proposed north-south cross-state route and one east-west route pass through Franklin County. These may eventually make use of several bikeways proposed in the region.

Franklin County region priorities

Priorities developed through the inventory process are:

1) Franklin County Bikeway, with emphasis on the segments in and around Greenfield. Of particular importance is the maintenance and improvement of Connecticut River bridges for bicycle travel.

2) Highway improvements to generate and maintain needed width, particularly in segments where alternate through routes are not available.

3) Northfield Bikeway, including the improvement of River Road and Pine Meadow Road, widening of Route 63 where needed, and designation of a route linking the campuses of the Northfield-Mt. Hermon School. Special attention should be given to maintaining bicycle access across the Connecticut River. While the Schell Bridge appears to be beyond repair, the Route 10 bridge is sufficiently wide for bicycle/motor vehicle lane sharing. Another potential crossing, closer to the center of Northfield, may be a bicycle bridge cantilevered to the nearby railroad bridge.

4) Design and construction of the Fairground Road Bike Path.

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