Williams Students Present Complete Streets Options for North Adams, iBerkshires

Williams students Sofia Barandiaran, Julia Gunther, Cristina Mancilla, and Del Rose Hooker Newball speak to the City Council.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A Complete Streets inventory project undertaken by Williams College students offered a number of scenarios for making a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly loop around the downtown, with the consideration of removing at least one lane from Main Street.
Sofia Barandiaran, Julia Gunther, Cristina Mancilla, and Del Rose Hooker Newball, all from the college’s environmental studies program, worked with Amanda Chilson of Northern Berkshire Community Coation’s Mass in Motion and Eammon Coughlin of Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, both of whom have had a hand in the city’s Complete Streets programming and grant applications.
“It has been our goal to create a living document that will provide guidance on our locally owned streets to be a helpful document when there’s any routine repaving, maintenance or future construction projects,” Chilson told the City Council at last week’s presentation. “Just know that these are recommendations and we’ll go from there.”
Barandiaran said the students looked at connections between Main, Eagle, Marshall, Center, Holden and River streets, along with St. Anthony Drive and Route 2 and the Veterans Memorial Bridge as to how they could be better designed to align with the state’s Complete Streets program.
“The goal of our project was to make North Adams multimodal, which means having pedestrian, cyclists on the streets while also not sacrificing vehicle accessibility,” said Newball. “We also wanted to improve linkages within downtown items and promote good health and walkability.”
They said some 1,400 communities across the nation have adopted Complete Street policies to encourage development that enhances safe walking and bicycling opportunities that promote health while also reducing greenhouse gases by made by motor vehicles. Their research found that, nationally over the past decade, driving has increased slightly and walking not much at all yet  there’s been a 35 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.
Their report assessed “key downtown streets” to offer design possibilities that could be done when the city does paving or other road construction. The survey specifically looked at low-cost options as well as more ambitious redesigns.
Main Street was considered the backbone of a transportation network that loops around the downtown. And they believed that the city has “enormous potential” for implementing Complete Streets at minimal cost mainly through repainting and routine repaving to create bike lanes on at least one side of the streets reviewed. Option 2 would be more costly and require more work in shifting lanes and possible structures but could be implemented strategically as the city does reconstruction projects.
Some 61.4 percent of the city’s residents live within one mile of the downtown core and the streets are wider than the standard so there is a real opportunity to create a safe walkable and bikable infrastructure that would greatly benefit residents, they said.
Taking out a lane on Main Street would not reduce parking but would create room for a single or double bike lane; taking out two travel lanes would allow bike lanes on both sides. One option would allow for design barriers — benches, planters, bus shelter etc. — between the sidewalk and the bike lane.
Holden has enough room for a single bike lane or a double, if the street was made one way between Center and Main. Between St. Anthony Drive and River Street, there’s room for two bike lanes on each side. River Street between Eagle and Marshall could accommodate a parking lane and a bike lane, or remove parking to provide space for two bike lanes.
Marshall Street between the overpass and Main is wide enough to for two bike lanes with the existing configuration; the lanes could run along the traffic lanes or could be run between the sidewalk and the parking spots. There’s also enough room between St. Anthony Drive and River to continue both bike lanes.
“I think there’s definitely parts of this that are great and other things that as we move forward  with the city that would have to be considered,” said Council President Keith Bona.
Removing one or two lanes on Main Street would open up more space for bikes and create safer spaces for pedestrians, according to the survey.
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
06:12AM / Saturday, December 21, 2019