Later this month, the City of Northampton and MassDOT will present plans to renovate one of the most walkable Main Streets in western Massachusetts with widened sidewalks and protected bike lanes.
"The ultimate goal is to reallocate that tremendous amount of right-of-way on Main Street to provide safer spaces for people to walk and linger and bike through downtown," says Carolyn Misch, Director of Planning and Sustainability for City of Northampton.
Northampton’s Main Street is unusually wide – roughly 90 feet from one curb to the other. It's also one of the busiest streets in western Massachusetts for foot traffic, with dozens of small businesses and thousands of college students living nearby.
But for decades, pedestrians have been confined to relatively narrow sidewalks while most of Main Street's public space has been set aside for cars, with extra-wide driving lanes and angled on-street parking.
The proposed new design for Main Street generally moves those curbs further into the roadway to make it easier for pedestrians to cross Main Street and to make more room for wider sidewalks, outdoor dining areas, protected bike lanes, and new bus stops:
These changes would extend from Elm Street in front of Smith College's College Hall on the west side of the downtown area to Hawley and Market Streets, just beyond the overpasses that carry the Manhan Rail Trail and Amtrak's Valley Flyer trains, to the east.
"We were just coming out of the initial pandemic shutdown, and a lot of businesses were worried about anything that might change," says Misch.
After two and a half more years of conversations, Misch says that "we've reached more of a consensus. Everyone understands we need safer crosswalks and safer spaces for pedestrians."
The latest design for Main Street retains a few diagonal on-street parking areas, and converts other on-street parking zones to more traditional parallel parking areas, which take up less of Main Street's valuable space.