Excellent news for anyone who rides a bike or thinks they should ride their bike a little more often. Northampton officials have announced that citizens will soon vote about extending their trail to meet the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton, making the connection between towns that will turn the trail into a useful path for commuters and not just a recreational haven.
Here are some details from the Gazette.
The project, which is being financed with federal stimulus money, hit a roadblock when a towing company owner with land along the route claimed a right to the property, but the city has settled with Frank N. Fournier III, and all the land acquisitions along the 2.6-mile route will be “friendly” takings, city officials said. The project is scheduled to get underway this summer and completed by 2011. The link will stretch from the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton just north of Ferry Street to the intersection of Grove and Earle streets in Northampton. There it will join a newly paved section of trail that leads to the Roundhouse parking lot behind the Peter Pan bus station.
Other sections of that trail through downtown Northampton are in various stages of construction. When completed, it will cross Pleasant Street and run parallel to an active railroad line, crossing Main and North streets on new bridges installed last year. The downtown trail, which does not yet have a name, will come out on King Street near the Stop & Shop supermarket, where it will link up with the Northampton section of the Norwottuck Rail Trail.
Most of the right-of-way from Easthampton to Earle Street belongs to National Grid, which has agreed to a friendly taking by the two cities using uncontested eminent domain procedures, according to Northampton Planning Director Wayne M. Feiden. National Grid took control of the rail corridors for its transmission lines, when railroad operations ceased decades ago.