Sunderland pursues bike lane options for Route 47

  • Town officials meet in October to discuss a state-funded North Main Street reconstruction project scheduled for 2020. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

  • A design variation of a state-funded reconstruction project for North Main Street in Sunderland, which includes two one-way bike lanes on either side of the road. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo—

Recorder Staff
Monday, November 14, 2016

SUNDERLAND — A design variation to build a 10-foot-wide, shared-use bike path along North Main Street, funded by a state grant, is gaining momentum.

During a joint meeting of the Select Board, Planning Board and Community Pathways Committee, a consensus was reached to pursue adding the path on the west side of state-controlled Route 47, the side closest to the municipal buildings.

Town Administrator Sherry Patch said the project is funded by the state Department of Transportation and is “scheduled for construction in 2020.” Patch noted that “a public hearing will be held in the future.”

In addition to the path, the design calls for repaving and slightly widening the road in some places to meet state requirements. A new sidewalk would also be constructed on the opposite side of the road.

The Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ 2016 Regional Transportation Plan describes the project as “box-widening and resurfacing North Main Street from the Route 116 intersection to Claybrook Drive.”

Also included is “sidewalk reconstruction, new wheelchair ramps, drainage system replacement and new pavement markings and signage.”

Alternative designs

John G. Morgan, the section manager for CHA Engineering tasked with designing the project, presented a few variations of the project to town officials during the meeting.

Among those designs was a proposal to widen the road and create two bicycle lanes on each side. Another was a proposal to add single-lane, one-directional bike paths parallel to two sidewalks.

Ultimately, officials felt the shared-use bike path design would work best because it would encourage pedestrian traffic, and be easily replicated alongside other roadways in town.

In the end, Selectboard Chairman Thomas Fydenkevez asked Morgan to further research the shared-use path design, as well as adding a few crosswalks.

Officials expressed hopes that a shared-path project would appeal to residents who don’t currently use the road for recreational purposes. Selectman David Pierce also noted potential economic impacts from increased pedestrian traffic in the center of town.

Also noted during the meeting were the needs of cyclists who won’t use a shared-use path.

“I would expect to see a single rider, or a couple of riders (on the path),” said Selectman Scott Bergeron, adding, “you’re not going to see a peloton of riders. They’re going to stay on the road.”

Gary Briere, who’s on the Community Pathways Committee and also an avid cyclist, said more serious riders would benefit from the shared-path design variation because the road would be widened to a uniform 26 feet.

Negative consequences with the variation includes removing trees. In order to save as many as possible, Morgan said the state might allow the path to be reduced to eight feet in some sections.

At least in part, the project is driven by safety concerns — specifically, concerns that cars drive too fast down the road, bicyclists don’t have enough room on the shoulder, and sidewalks need repair and aren’t accommodating for pedestrians.