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PIONEER VALLEY MAP
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The Pioneer Valley has a major metropolitan area, the Greater Springfield area. There is a smaller population center around the college towns of Amherst and Northampton; Belchertown, in this area, has the fastest population growth of any town or city in the state.
Little attention has been paid until recently to improving facilities for bicycling in the Greater Springfield area. Many streets are attractive for bicycling, but on the other hand, there are major corridors with no attractive bicycle route.
Much more has been done in the Amherst/Hadley/Northampton area, which is the location of the Pioneer Valleys three existing bicycle paths:
Route 116 Path
This is a path adjacent to the west side of Route 116. It runs from Hampshire College, near Bay Road, to Amherst College near the center of Amherst. It was constructed around 1980.
Norwottuck Rail Trail
This trail, constructed in the early 1990s, extends from the east end of Amherst to the east end of Northampton on an abandoned railbed. It has proven quite popular, and provides access to many businesses along the Route 9 corridor.
Northampton Bicycle Path
This path runs east to west through Northampton. It does not connect directly with the Norwottuck Rail Trail.
The following proposals have been submitted to the inventory project.
The Connecticut Valley Riverwalk proposal would provide access to the riverfront, as well as a system of bicycle paths up and down the river plus improved bridge connections across the river for bicyclists and pedestrians. This is an extensive and ambitious proposal. There are similar proposals to construct riverfront paths in Chicopee and Ludlow.
Rail trail proposals
There are several proposals for rail trails:
This abandoned rail line proceeds south from the center of Springfield to the Connecticut border. Connecticut has purchased the connecting right of way south of the border.
Southwick Rail Trail
An abandoned rail line extends southward from the center of Westfield through Southwick to the Connecticut border. Several contacts suggested that it be improved into a rail trail. Connecticut owns the adjoining right of way.
Several contacts also suggested a rail trail between Westfield and Northampton, or parts of this route. The line is inactive and a large segment is in public ownership.
Northampton trail extensions and improvements
The Northampton Bicycle Path ends a short distance from the start of the Norwottuck Rail Trail. An active proposal would connect the two. A proposal was submitted to extend the Northampton path to the west as far as Williamsburg.
An abandoned trolley railbed which has potential as a rail trail runs from Blandford across the Berkshires to Lee, in Berkshire county. (See also the Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission section of this report.)
Chester-Becket Granite Railway
This is another, relatively short railbed in the Berkshire hills. It straddles the border between the Pioneer Valley and Berkshire Valley regions, but has been proposed by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.
Keystone Arch Trail
The proposal is for a trail which would provide access to the historic stonework bridges along the Conrail active rail line. The trail would not use the rail corridor, and would probably not be paved; it would in this case be satisfactory for mountain bikes but maybe not for all road bikes.
Grand Trunk-related proposals
Several proposals would link the Connecticut River Valley to the proposed rail trail on the abandoned Grand Trunk railroad right of way. These include bicycle paths and on-street route proposals in Amherst, Belchertown, Palmer and Brimfield. Spurs would connect to the Quabbin Reservoir dam and recreational facilities, and to town population centers.
Proposals for street improvements in urban areas
Proposals were submitted to improve access and to designate through routes which reflect bicyclists desires for directness and wide lanes/low traffic. Two commenters, Don Podolski and Howard Lamson, submitted extensive suggestions for on-street routes in Westfield and West Springfield/Springfield, respectively. These suggestions would be of importance to provide connectivity in conjunction with proposals for nearby trails. This is especially so where upgrading of bridges and other bottlenecks would increase bicyclists route options.
Rural roads and highways as bicycle routes
Several commenters, notably Don Podolski and the Planning Commission, pointed to the wealth of lightly-traveled and scenic roads outside the urban areas of the Pioneer Valley as a resource for bicycle transportation and tourism. The greatest concentration of such routes is in the hill towns to the west of Westfield. There are both paved roads and unpaved ones.
The Connecticut River Trail proposal would designate Route 47 along the east bank of the river from South Hadley to Sunderland as a bicycle route.
See the section of this report on cross-state routes for more detail on the following routes:
One east-west and one north-south route pass through the Pioneer Valley. The north-south route runs on the west side of the Connecticut River and incorporates part of the Northampton Bicycle Path. An alternate route on the east side of the river follows the Norwottuck Rail Trail to Amherst and then heads north.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is in the process of evaluating all facility proposals as part of its current bicycle and pedestrian planning process, and has not determined its priorities for the region at this time.
The following priorities have been developed through the bicycle facilities inventory project. These priorities reflect transportation criteria and so are weighted toward the more populated areas of the Pioneer Valley, where there are more potential users. Many of the other proposals have been incorporated into the cross-state routes.
1) Improvements to streets, highways and bridges, particularly in the heavily populated greater Springfield area. Wide outside lanes should be provided on collector and arterial streets. Where these lanes cannot be provided, alternative side-street routes should be designated.
Adequate bicycle access and shoulder width should be provided on area bridges. Usable shoulders should be provided and maintained on rural highway sections.
2) Connecticut Valley Riverwalk and related proposals, which importantly include bridge improvements and removal of access barriers, should be constructed.
3) Rail trails with major transportation utility should be constructed; in particular, the Hazardville line, the Manhan trail, Westfield to Southwick Trail, Northampton Bike Path extensions, and southern extensions to the Norwottuck Trail.
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