Amherst residents pitch capital projects with safety in mind
Published: 2/17/2023 12:06:18 PM
AMHERST — Speed humps on North Amherst streets, a new ValleyBike Share station in the Mill District and an e-bike station for a downtown parking lot are among resident requests being made to the town’s capital spending program.
On Thursday, the Joint Capital Planning Committee began examining applications filed by residents to be included in the fiscal 2024 capital improvement program, including several that are part of a comprehensive package from the District One Neighborhood Association that would improve transportation, both by encouraging walking and bicycling and reducing speeds of vehicles, in North Amherst.
Several of the suggestions center on Harris and Fisher streets, two short streets that connect Pine and North Pleasant streets, and which are frequently used as shortcuts by motorists to avoid the main signalized intersection.
Jessica Mix Barrington, who lives at the corner of Pine and Harris streets, is proposing $30,000 to install a new crosswalk on Pine Street. “It’s not very safe for people to cross the street here,” Mix Barrington said.
She estimates that in the summer up to 100 people a day are crossing from Harris to the Pine Street sidewalk to get on foot to Puffer’s Pond.
Her proposal includes a pedestrian activated light, street painting and some form of landing on Harris, where there is no sidewalk to connect to.
Kathleen Carroll of Fisher Street is seeking $20,000 for a speed hump to discourage drivers who see a red light while approaching the North Pleasant and Pine streets intersection from turning. “The reasons for the request is totally related to safety of residents who live here,” Carroll said.
Another $40,000 ask comes from Lissa Pierce-Bonifaz of Harris Street, for similar speed humps to keep drivers from cutting through from Pine Street.
JCPC member Mandi Jo Hanneke said the proposals may need to be embedded in a larger plan for long-term fixes to the main intersection as part of an holistic approach.
Meg Gage of Montague Road said the neighborhood association sees the changes as strengthening the village center.
Arthur Haskins, vice president of real estate and community development for W.D. Cowls, is suggesting adding a ValleyBike Share stations near North Square Apartments to fill a void.
A private $20,475 would match $20,000 from capital to get the station and six bicycles.
“This proposal will complete the ValleyBike station availability to the north end of Amherst and improve the bikeability of the whole area,” reads the application.
Ira Bryck of Strong Street put in $20,000 for a locked and guarded bicycle area for e-bikes in the town parking lot off North Prospect Street, which he said would be better use of that than the rezoning in late 2021 that allows for construction of a second downtown parking garage.
“I think it would be good for downtown,” Bryck said.
Contraflow bike lanes at a cost of $2,000 to $3,000 for signs and street markings is a proposal from Rob Kusner of Van Meter Drive. Kusner said this would ensure that bicyclists understand they are allowed to ride against traffic on some one-way streets, including on North Pleasant Street west of Kendrick Park.
“Adding a bike lane there at a highly-visible, high-traffic location that was recently converted to one-way northbound auto traffic will allow safer cycling there for those who already do, provide an added incentive for those who don’t, and encourage people who visit the area (but hadn’t considered choosing cycling as an alternative transportation mode) to try,” Kusner wrote in his appeal.
Other ideas include $17,000 for electronic speed signs on Henry Street in the vicinity of the Cushman Scott Children’s Center, a convex mirror, at $500, on East Pleasant Street at Mount Pleasant and $7,460 to buy equipment so Amherst Neighbors can better reach underserved elders.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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