BOSTON – Friday, May 31, 2013—The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is beginning the roadway design work on one of the alternatives that was under review as part of the I-91 Interchange 19 Study in Northampton, MA. The alternative, referred to as Alternative 13A, includes a roundabout at the I-91 northbound exit ramp / Damon Road / Route 9 intersection. It also includes improvements at the I-91 southbound entrance intersection. These improvements include ramp widening, signal modifications and adding an additional left turn lane on Route 9 onto I-91 southbound. On Route 9, the additional left turn lane will extend under the I-91 overpass bridge, and the sidewalk on the north side of the roadway will be relocated behind the piers. Opportunities for additional traffic calming will also be considered for inclusion in the final design.
The study, which began in 2009, set out to find ways to improve mobility in the I-91 Exit 19 area. The entire project includes traffic analysis, roadway design, environmental analysis, and a significant effort to seek community input. There have been over 11 meetings with a Project Advisory Committee (PAC) and two public meetings since the inception of the project. The PAC, composed of neighborhood, City, and regional representatives has been instrumental in guiding the project and offering input on the various alternatives that were being considered. The PAC encouraged additional work in the design development to address bicycle and pedestrian accommodation. A majority of PAC members have voiced their support of Alternative 13A.
When the study began in 2009, there were 12 alternatives under consideration, including alternatives for a full interchange at Exit 19 as recommended in the 2004 Connecticut River Crossing Transportation Study. The Connecticut River Crossing Transportation Study was initiated by MassDOT (formerly MassHighway) to develop a more comprehensive program of regional solutions to transportation congestion and safety problems in the area. After bringing all options to the PAC and public and conducting a traffic and environmental analysis, the study team narrowed the options to six alternatives – a No Build Alternative, four build alternatives, and one Transportation Demand Management (TDM) package alternative. The TDM alternative was intended to reduce congestion by reducing vehicular traffic volume. Elements of the TDM alternative included more frequent bus services, improved connection to the Norwottuck Rail Trail, Transit Signal Priority, and discounted bus fares through an employer based system. After more thorough review, Alternative 13A was identified as providing maximum benefits with the most cost-efficient, practical, and widely-supported approach. While Alternative 13A was identified as the preferred approach, there are elements of the TDM alternative that were noted as beneficial. Some of these elements are currently under various states of implementation while others will be incorporated into Alternative 13A. Examples of ongoing TDM measures include a transit signal priority project on Route 9 in Northampton, currently under construction; deployment of a “smart card” fare payment system on PVTA bus routes, and the acquisition of four articulated buses, to be placed in service by PVTA in 2013 The anticipated schedule for the project is completion of the preliminary 25% Design by the end of 2014, completion of the 100% Design Plan and Permitting by the end of 2016 and depending on funding availability, construction completion by 2019. MassDOT will continue to work with the PAC through the project design phase, including holding several additional PAC meetings at key project milestones.
Additional information on the I-91 Interchange 19 and the Connecticut River Crossing Transportation studies can be obtained on the project website at www.mass.gov/massdot/interchange19.
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