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Conditions for bicycling on highways in the region vary widely. Some major highways, such as Route 28, are very attractive for bicycling due to low traffic volume and wide lanes. Others are not nearly as attractive.
A dense network of rural roads crisscrosses this relatively flat region. Many are very attractive for bicycling, but others are less attractive due to higher traffic volume.
The SRPEDD region has two large cities, New Bedford and Fall River, with urban bicycling conditions. A major issue for bicycle transportation in the urban areas is access across harbor bridges.
Designated bicycle facilities
Fairhaven has designated bicycle routes on roads, with edge striping. Existing paths in Swansea are described in the towns proposal for a route connecting to the East Bay Bikepath in Rhode Island and the Taunton River Trail in Somerset. The Myles Standish State Forest, with its several bicycle paths, is partly in the SRPEDD region.
Racks on buses
The Greater Attleboro-Taunton Regional Transit Authority purchased 20 bike racks to be installed on all local buses operating in Taunton and Attleboro. It is also planning to install bike lockers at three MBTA rail stations and two intercity bus terminals.
The following proposals have been submitted to the bicycle facilities inventory.
These communities have developed a coordinated plan of bicycle routes which also connect with the East Bay bicycle path in Rhode Island. This is an extensive and ambitious proposal. Since it consists of several elements, it is appropriate to discuss each separately.
The Taunton River Trail:
This proposed bicycle path in Somerset, Dighton and Taunton appears to have strong potential due to its scenic location and access to the Taunton River shoreline. The utility of this facility would be significantly enhanced if it provided a connection through Taunton linking with destinations in Taunton and the railbed north to Easton.
Connecting routes in Swansea
The Swansea proposal forms an essential part of the link between the Taunton River Trail and the East Bay Trail in Rhode island. The proposed route is primarily on streets, with a few bicycle path segments. Some bicycle path segments proposed as part of this project are existing paths adjacent to roadways. The East Bay Path is popular, and its combination with the Taunton River Trail and connecting routes is likely to be even more popular. An alternate routing on roads away from the town center appears possible.
Connection to Fall River and Dighton
The major population centers in the area of this project are Fall River and Taunton. Fall River has included the bridge to Somerset in its list of bicycle facilities in a 1992 SRPEDD transportation planning document. Maintenance and/or improvement of the bridge for bicycle access should be included in the description of the project, so that the largest number of people may benefit from the project. There is also a bridge between Dighton and Berkley which should be included in the project and improved as necessary.
Fairhaven bicycle routes
A path on an abandoned railbed is proposed to connect to existing bicycle routes on streets running generally perpendicular to the railbed.
Fairhaven Rail Trail
The path on the railbed may serve as a through route connecting across Mattapoisett to Marion. Furthermore, this railbed connects to other proposed facilities in Mattapoisett.
Connection to New Bedford
An element which would greatly increase its transportation potential but is not described in the Fairhaven proposal is a connection across New Bedford Harbor. There are three bridges across the harbor. The Route 6 bridge provides a convenient connection to the Fairhaven railbed. This connection would make the Fairhaven path useful for through travel including commuting into and out of New Bedford. The Fairhaven project should include a proposal to achieve the connection into New Bedford. An on-road connection is entirely acceptable for this purpose, but it should be designated and improved as a bicycle route. Note that New Bedford has included the Route 6 bridge in a list of bicycle facilities in a SRPEDD transportation planning document (see below).
Town of Marion Bike-Hike paths
These proposals consist entirely of paths adjacent to roads.
Abandoned Rail right-of-way, Middleborough to Plymouth
Leaving aside the question of ownership, this represents an intriguing possibility which could be very popular for tourist traffic in the historic cranberry-growing and Pilgrim country. Part of this is in the Old Colony RPA, so it also will be discussed in connection with that RPA.
North Attleborough bicycle routes
This proposal dates from 1976. Traffic conditions may have changed since then, and no current proposal is under consideration. Reevaluation and reformulation are recommended.
This is a comprehensive, community-based bicycle route system , unique among the proposals in the SRPEDD region. It includes segments on roads and also separate bicycle paths.
Mansfield-Norton Regional Bikeway
The Town of Mansfield owns an abandoned railbed extending from the Mansfield MBTA rail station to the Taunton city limit, and has proposed a trail along this route. The extension of the same railbed into Taunton is under consideration for regional rail service to Taunton, Fall River and New Bedford and can not be considered for use as a trail at this time. A Taunton extension might be on designated streets.
Section 13 of the SRPEDD Transportation Plan
This includes 33 proposals, at least one for each city or town. Many are not duplicated in the proposals which were submitted directly to the inventory project. Some of the proposals have been discussed above in connection with more detailed proposals which were presented individually for this inventory. Some, particularly those for the bridges across Fall River and New Bedford harbors, are important transportation links. Others deserve more attention and analysis. There is not sufficient detail in the Transportation Plan to evaluate many of these proposals.
See the section of this report on cross-state routes for more detail on the following routes:
The southern east-west cross-state route passes through the SRPEDD area. A spur to the ferry dock and central, historic district of New Bedford is included.
The Plymouth-Middleboro abandoned railbed has high potential as a future touring route, both because it could be incorporated into a cross-state route and because it passes through areas of high interest to tourists. The same is true of the proposed Taunton River Trail.
Priorities developed through the inventory project are:
1) Taunton River Trail and related projects in Somerset and Swansea. The proposal should include connections into Fall River, Berkley and Taunton. The Mansfield-Norton trail proposal may be incorporated into this complex of projects by connecting it to the Taunton River Trail. It should be noted that Berkley and Mansfield have rapidly-growing populations and a resulting increasing transportation demand.
2) Attleboro bicycle routes, a comprehensive town-wide proposal;
3) Fairhaven rail trail, including a connection into New Bedford.
In addition, there are a number of interesting proposals in the Transportation Plan which might have been recognized as priorities if more detail had been available.
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