Bike/walk route plan headed for Town Meeting

by Town Reminder

By Kristin Will

SOUTH HADLEY – Consulting services provided by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission [PVPC] for evaluating and developing biking, walking and hiking routes and trails throughout town will be an article on an upcoming Town Meeting agenda.
The Selectboard recommended the $30,000 project be reviewed and voted on by Town Meeting at its Tuesday meeting.
“I think it will be well spent,” said Town Administrator Michael J. Sullivan of the funds. The PVPC, he said, has the in-house knowledge to cover issues that might crop up and is adaptable to plans that possibly change. “They have a lot of resources they can tap into,” he said.
He would make sure assets “coming down the road are taken into account as well,” he said, such as the future Route 47 bike route.
The project is broken into seven parts. The first, public involvement and visioning, includes a visioning session with the public to understand biking, pedestrian and hiking needs; a survey of residents; and interviews with various town officials regarding relevant pedestrian and bicycle safety issues. This task will cost an estimated $4,250.
Task two, which costs $3,500, involves the PVPC conducting site visits to identify potential alignments for bicycle, pedestrian and hiking routes and their current conditions. Routes include a bicycle/pedestrian connection between the Village Commons and South Hadley Falls, a route Sullivan has nicknamed Ferry Street to Fairview. The PVPC will look at adding a bike lane on Route 116 with a return loop nearer to the Connecticut River. Sidewalk gap closures and the availability of sidewalks will be evaluated here.
Additional routes include pathways near the Connecticut River and safe routes to schools and parks. In this stage, hiking trails will be investigated, especially those that include improved access to the Connecticut River, Mount Holyoke Range and town-owned park lands.
In the third task, which will cost $6,500, the PVPC will collect crash data for major intersections and data such as travel lane widths, shoulder widths, on-street parking and other traffic conditions in town. Here, it will inventory existing bicycle parking and transit routes.
Based on information collected in task three, the PVPC will developed a map of preferred bicycle and pedestrian routes as its fourth task. This will cost $2,500.
Recommendations will be given in the fifth task for improving bicycle and pedestrian access. The PVPC will prioritize the recommendations for on-street bike lanes and “share the road” routes; off-street multi-use trails and, if feasible, will include linkages with regional trail systems; sidewalks and crosswalks; safe routes to school; and hiking or greenway trails. With the recommendations, the PVPC will include implementation strategies. This task will cost $6,360
Funding options will be identified by the PVPC in task six, including federal, state and municipal funding sources. This research will cost $3,000.
And finally, in task 7, six working papers compiled of findings from each above task will be assembled to create a Comprehensive Plan for Bicycle and Pedestrian Routes and Hiking Trails in South Hadley. The final report will be presented to the town and copies of it will be made available. This final step will cost $3,710.
“This is the cost of doing it right,” said Sullivan. The PVPC, he said, will take “into consideration all the complexities a biking path might present.”
Selectboard Member Ira Brezinsky asked Sullivan if the $30,000 fee was a hard number or if tasks could be skipped to reduce the cost. For instance, the Bike/Walk Committee has already conducted a survey of biking needs and the Sustainable Development Assessment Team visit a few years back looked at similar issues throughout the Falls area regarding walking and biking paths.
Sullivan likened the PVPC work and its provided tasks to Jenga. He said it’s not likely the fee would shrink or grow very much in either direction, but it’s possible tasks could be swapped for other options PVPC could explore.
“We’re going to make sure we’re going to get $30,000” of work, said Sullivan. And in his experience, a town will give $30,000 and receive $40,000 worth of work in return from the PVPC.
“This seems like a logical step,” said Selectboard Member Frank DeToma. “Cleary it’s a very professional layout. This takes it beyond what a volunteer group can do.”
The timeline for the consultation and subsequent project would fall between one year and 18 months. It is likely the town would pay for the cost over two fiscal year budgets.