NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) - The long-awaited reconstruction project for the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Northampton is finally taking off in Hampshire County.
The 18-month project kicked-off Monday morning during a groundbreaking event in the trail's Damon Road parking lot.
The Norwottuck Rail Trail is a recreational hot spot for both locals and tourists in western Massachusetts. The pathway spans 11 miles and connects Northampton to Hadley and Amherst.
For six years, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Transportation, the Norwottuck Rail Trail Advisory Committee (NRTAC), and Northampton residents have been planning and discussing improvements for the trail.
Officials say this project will take 18 months to complete.
Some of the changes included in this makeover:
- A new asphalt surface will replace the embedded glass and tree root bumps that have caused problems for riders.
- The trail will be widened from 8 to 10 feet in areas where there's known to be heavy traffic.
- Bridges will be replaced or re-decked.
- Handicapped access will be improved.
People who ride on the trail told 22News that they are looking forward to the improvements.
"No more bumps, that would be great, and the glass is almost gone- so that is not a problem anymore. But we are looking forward to riding longer and further," Alice Byron of Hadley said.
The benefits aren't just for bike riders, though. Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Richard Sullivan told 22News that the improvements will have a great benefit to people living in Hampshire County as a whole.
"It represents a $3.2 million investment in the recreational opportunities, the quality of life here in Northampton and Amherst and Hadley, where it runs through, as well as making an investment into the economies here," Sullivan said.
Several dignitaries attended Monday's groundbreaking ceremony, including former Congressman John Olver (D-Amherst) and current Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Worcester).