The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Highway Division are working together to rehabilitate of the oldest sections of the 10.6 mile Norwottuck Rail Trail, which extends from Northampton to Belchertown, MA. Design funding has been provided through a state and federal partnership between DCR, MassDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration. Funding for the planned $4 million construction phase will come from federal and state funds set aside by Congressman John Olver in a federal transportation bill and by MassDOT. The design phase is currently scheduled for completion in 2012.
The scope of work for upgrades and safety improvements includes:
- Assessment of existing conditions and natural resources.
- Replacement of existing trail surface.
- Trail widening up to 10-feet where possible
- Evaluation of beaver impacts to the trail and a plan to manage the effects.
- Public safety and Universal Access improvements.
- Identification and resolution of drainage and erosion problems.
- Upgrades to trail signage.
- Improvements to bridge decks and parking lots.
The reconstruction project for the Mass Central Rail Trail – Norwottuck Branch has been fully designed and permitted. The project is expected to be advertised for construction on March 9, 2013. Following the advertising period a contractor will be selected. MassDOT will oversee the construction. Work is anticipated to begin in the Summer of 2013. Construction will proceed in phases in order to minimize disruption to path users. The re-decking of the Connecticut River Bridge will occur under a separate DCR contract.
A Design Public Hearing was held by MassDOT and DCR to discuss the proposed Norwottuck Rail Trail Bicycle and Pedestrian Path project in Amherst, Hadley and Northampton, MA at the Hadley Elementary School. MassDOT includes information on the project at their project page: 605065.
The 25% design for the Norwottuck Rail Trail Reconstruction Project has been completed and submitted to MassDOT in Boston for review. This design was shared and public input was solicited at a Public meeting on April 3, 2012. Notes from this meeting and public comments are posted at http://www.mass.gov/dcr/news/publicmeetings/greenwaysmaterials.htm
A formal 25% design hearing will occur during the summer. The design includes:
- Improvements to the parking area at Damon Road
- Widening of the rail trail along approximately 70% of its length where this would not result in impacts to wetlands or excessive tree removal
- Protection of wetlands and tree canopy along the route
- Additional parking along Railroad Street, but still maintaining Railroad Street as two-way
- Turn-around and catch-up areas along the trail to improve user safety and accessibility
- Re-decking of three bridges
- Safety improvements to all of the road crossing, including a proposed hybrid signal at South Maple Street
- A re-alignment and boardwalk at the Route 9 tunnel
- A re-alignment at the Swift Connector
- Improvements to the accessible ramp at Route 116
- Cutting of the roots and full resurfacing from Damon Road in Northampton to Station Road in Amherst
- Improvements to trail signage and information
A Notice of Project Change (NPC) has also been submitted to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office. This NPC trails the project's environmental impacts and the efforts to avoid, minimize and mitigate those impacts. The current design makes every effort to minimize these impacts, for example this design has reduced impacts to bordering vegetated wetlands from 120,444 square feet to just 2,467 square feet.
DCR and MassDOT are now working to further refine the design, develop trail signage, detail a landscaping plan, and develop a project phasing schedule to minimize disruption to path users to the extent practicable.
At the request of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) DCR and MassDOT agreed to complete the design and permitting of the Norwottuck Rail Trail Reconstruction Project “in-house” with MassDOT and DCR resources rather than fund an additional consultant design agreement. MassDOT District 2, in cooperation with DCR, will prepare full Plans, Specifications, and Estimate (PS&E) for advertising and prepare the remaining environmental permit applications and MEPA documents for filing needed to move the project towards construction in 2013.
Following the scoping of the project for an EIR, and in response to community concerns and budget constraints, DCR and MassDOT decided to revise the project to reduce the scope, eliminate widening in some sensitive areas, reduce wetland impacts and tree removals, eliminate the proposal to create a dam in the beaver impacted area, and leave the Route 9 tunnel alignment as it currently is.
DCR and MassDOT then requested additional federal funds for designing and permitting this revised project.
In June of 2010 DCR submitted an Expanded Environmental Notification Form (EENF) to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office. Following this review and based in large part on public comments concerning environmental impacts to wetland resources and tree removal, the project was scoped by MEPA for a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
During the fall of 2009, the project team developed pre-25% design plans, completed revisions to the Rare Species Habitat Assessment for the Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program, continued work on the vegetation management plan and wetlands analysis and began preparing an Expanded Environmental Notification Form for the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) filing.
January 14, 2010
October 13, 2009
March 13, 2009
February 3, 2009
November 24, 2008
November 6, 2008
Subscribe to Norwottuck Rail Trail Rehabilitation Project Updates
Norwottuck Rail Trail NPC
MEPA Certificate from July 30, 2010
Previously Reviewed Plans
Currently Proposed Plans
USGS Topo Map
Tree Impact Calculations
NPC Distribution List
Norwottuck Rail Trail
Connecticut River Greenway State Park
Director Greenways and Trails Program
Department of Conservation and Recreation
136 Damon Rd
Northampton, MA 01060
413-586-8706 ext. 20