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MassDOT Is Building a Complete Streets Corridor Through West Springfield and Agawam

A construction project that’s expected to be substantially complete later this year is adding physically-separated bikeways, protected intersections, and upgraded sidewalks to Agawam’s riverfront and to a new Morgan-Sullivan Bridge across the Westfield River. Courtesy of MassDOT.

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.

MassDOT projects now underway aim to transform the streets highlighted in red with upgraded sidewalks, bike lanes, and road diets.
MassDOT projects now underway aim to transform the streets highlighted in red with upgraded sidewalks, bike lanes, and road diets.

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.

Although the corridor is dominated by strip malls and large parking lots, roughly one in ten households in the towns of Agawam and West Springfield do not own an automobile, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

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.

Memorial Drive rendering West Springfield MA
A cross-section of the proposed Memorial Ave. project in West Springfield. The new street would have three lanes for cars (instead of the current four), upgrade sidewalks and crosswalks, and add a physically-separated, two-way cycletrack along The Big E fairgrounds. Rendering courtesy of MassDOT.

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."

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