North County Bike Path Pushed Back a Year
Supporters of the proposed bike path connecting North Adams and Williamstown are lamenting another construction delay and looking for answers.
The Berkshire Eagle reports after years of planning, local officials want clarity on why the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has put the brakes on the project and when it will finally be built.
"The trail project between Williamstown and North Adams has been reprogrammed to federal Fiscal Year 2020 to allow for additional environmental review," a MassDOT spokesperson said in an email to The Eagle.
When asked for further detail, spokesman Maxwell Huber stated, "The additional review process is to ensure that the project adheres to the Federal Aviation Administration guidelines since a portion of the trail is adjacent to an airport."
In an April amendment to its fiscal 2019 Transportation Improvement Plan, the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization shifted the project from fiscal 2019 to fiscal 2020. The planning organization is a board that includes representatives from MassDOT, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, the Berkshire Regional Transportation Authority, and municipal officials from across the county. Its work is aided by staff members of the regional commission.
If DOT isn't ready to put the project out to bid in fiscal 2019, which ends Sept. 30, the project need not be in the fiscal 2019 Transportation Improvement Plan, he confirmed.
The bike path would connect Syndicate Road in Williamstown to the Harriman and West Airport in North Adams. Eventually, the goal is to connect to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and create more than 20 miles of bike path connecting Lanesborough to Williamstown through Cheshire, Adams and North Adams.
The path's backers in the Northern Berkshires sent out emails last week urging residents to file a comment with the the planning organization before the public comment period on the proposed transportation plan ended Wednesday.
To Amanda Chilson, Mass in Motion coordinator at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, the proposed path offers improved bicycle and pedestrian connectivity between Williamstown and North Adams, a potential driver of economic growth and beneficial to public health.
"There's been so much momentum and movement behind it, to stall it, we're going to lose some of that momentum," Chilson said.