Two MassDOT projects in the towns of Agawam and West Springfield aim to transform car-oriented state highways into complete streets that will make several major regional destinations more accessible by foot or by bike.
The state is currently rebuilding the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge across the Westfield River as well as several adjacent streets and intersections. The project (pictured above in a MassDOT rendering) will give the town continuous sidewalks and new two-way, physically-separated bikeways on adjoining parts of Springfield Street, Main Street, and Suffield Street.
A second MassDOT project, currently in advanced design, would rebuild the entire length of Memorial Avenue through West Springfield on the northern side of the new bridge, and extend the sidewalk improvements and new bicycling facilities all the way the banks of the Connecticut River, just across from downtown Springfield.
The projects are noteworthy for their efforts to transform suburban multi-lane roadways into calmer, safer streets that might actually be welcoming to people traveling on foot and by bike.
The eastern end of Memorial Avenue in West Springfield is home to two major supermarkets that serve thousands of households on both sides of the Connecticut River (West Springfield plans to install a new ValleyBike bikeshare dock there later this spring). And the western end of Memorial Avenue traverses the enormous fairgrounds of "The Big E," a multi-state agricultural exposition that attracts over a million visitors every fall.
These two projects also reflect recent changes to MassDOT's engineering standards, which, under new guidelines adopted in 2020, now require sidewalks, transit stops, and buffered or separated bike lanes to be included in MassDOT's street reconstruction projects.
Mayor William Sapelli of Agawam has been watching the progress of the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge project from his office in the Town Hall on Main Street. As a former superintendent, he's particularly enthusiastic about how the projects will make it safer and easier for students to get to school.
"The complete streets projects are phenomenal," said Sapelli in a phone conversation with Streetsblog. "I have two schools here in this neighborhood, and lots of walkers. These bike lanes and sidewalks are really instrumental."
Sapelli also hopes that the project will help attract more foot traffic and new business investment to the area, which is currently dominated by run-down strip malls and parking lots.
"Right as you come over the bridge there used to be an old gas station, and an old motel. A developer bought that property and tore them down; those lots are being used for construction staging now, but we expect that when this project is finished, they'll be developed and bring in new businesses," said Sapelli. "We have people who will move in and build something substantial that wouldn’t have come if not for this project."