MassDOT will implement a temporary crosswalk and separated path through its Route 9 construction zone after trail users raised alarms that the agency's road widening project had effectively blocked off one of the busiest regional trails in western Massachusetts.
As we reported here earlier this month, MassDOT recently closed the Norwottuck Trail tunnel under Route 9 in Hadley to accommodate a roadway widening that will add a new center turning lane, sidewalks, and shoulders.
As part of that project, MassDOT will need to lengthen the existing bike and pedestrian tunnel that carries the Norwottuck Rail Trail, a popular 8-mile commuting route between Amherst and downtown Northampton, under Route 9.
The tunnel and an adjacent segment of the trail will be closed for a month this fall, until Friday, October 6.
But when the closure began, neither MassDOT nor the Department of Conservation of Recreation, the agency that manages the trail, provided any safe detours for trail users around the construction zone.
On Tuesday, MassDOT issued a press release announcing that the agency "will be implementing a new pedestrian and bicycle detour for the closed Norwottuck Rail Trail Tunnel under Route 9 in Hadley."
The new detour consists of a temporary crosswalk near the closed tunnel that will let trail users across Route 9. MassDOT is also providing a new designated path, physically separated from the construction work, that will reconnect with the Norwottuck Rail Trail on the other side of the construction zone.
"We're grateful for the quick response from MassDOT to address the safety concerns for vulnerable users that rely on this path," said Galen Mook, executive director of MassBike.