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MassDOT project to improve safety

Date: 5/12/2010

May 12, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- More than $2 million worth of proposed improvements to roadways will make bike travel easier and safer around School Street Park.

The Massachusetts Depart-ment of Transportation will host a public hearing on May 19 to present the project and gain feedback from riders and residents alike. The proposal includes approximately 1.8 miles of new bike paths and roadways connecting the north end of the Riverwalk to School Street Park and Benjamin J. Phelps Elementary School.

"The popularity of the new School Street Park and the existing bike path are bringing people up and down School Street in droves. Safe egress connecting the recreation facilities on School Street is a necessary safety concern," Christopher Sparks, director of Parks and Recreation, said.

Deborah Dachos, director of planning and community development, explained the project would "include both an on the road bike path on the western end of School Street and an off the road, multi-use trail on the eastern end of School Street. This will connect to a proposed bike lane on Main Street, which will be constructed separately through the Main Street Improvement Project, the design for which will be completed in June."

Dachos said design funds were secured via a grant from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. She added that construction costs remain unfunded at this time.

Mayor Richard Cohen called the projects necessary in order to ensure public safety for riders and pedestrians.

David Metteo, president of Agawam Little League and Agawam's Youth Football Association, echoed Sparks' and Cohen's sentiments.

"With the current condition of School Street, [bicycle riding] can be very dangerous for our players," he said. "With the extension of the bike path this would provide a safe route for our players."

Jon Dietrich, project manager for Fuss & O'Neill Consulting Engineers, said plans for the project should be completed within six months.

The public hearing will take place May 19 at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center, 954 Main St.