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Rte 9 Corridor - Detailed Description

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Route 9 Corridor Improvement

Project Background

The Route 9 Corridor Improvement Project is the result of the recommendations put forth by the Connecticut River Crossing Transportation Study (CRCTS) completed in 2004. The CRCTS’ purpose was to determine the need for regional transportation improvements as they relate to the crossing of the Connecticut River in Hampshire and Franklin counties, and included a comprehensive analysis of the potential feasibility of additional bridge crossings over the Connecticut River. The study concluded that new bridge crossings would result in significant environmental and social impacts, outweighing the associated traffic impacts. Instead, the CRCTS recommended short- and medium-term improvements along Route 9 including investment in intelligent transit systems (ITS) equipment, transit demand model (TDM) strategies, and a hybrid bus rapid transit (BRT) program.

Project Description

Route 9 functions as the main east-west roadway between Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst. The corridor bears the full burden of regional mobility in the area, and will play a large role in shaping the future growth of the communities it runs through. This project includes full reconstruction of this key roadway from Middle Street (Rt. 47) to North/South Maple Street – about 2¼ miles. In that space, we will address traffic congestion, regional mobility, accessibility, safety, and accommodations for pedestrians, bicycles, and transit.

To enable these improvements, the project will include a robust project development phase to establish a community-supported roadway cross-section (lane use) and associated roadway widening. Improvements will promote active transportation options as well as enhanced safety conditions, provide additional pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, while meeting current Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards, and improving overall vehicular traffic operations. To facilitate these improvements, the project will also include drainage, landscaping, relocation of existing retaining walls, installation of granite curbing, and associated roadwork. Taken together, these elements represent a package of balanced, context-sensitive improvements which seek to make Route 9 a fully multimodal corridor by enhancing safety and efficiency for all modes of travel.

Needs for Improvement

Along the corridor, MassDOT has identified a need to rehabilitate the existing roadway and signage as well as address the lack of adequate and accessible pedestrian, bicycle, and transit amenities. Additionally, the intersection of Maple Street at the Mountain Farms Mall is a high-crash location, which warrants safety mitigations. The area is also a critical resource to the Commonwealth: Route 9 not only provides a limited east-west connection between I-91 to the Hadley and Amherst area, but also to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Improvements along Route 9 have the ability to enhance the vitality of abutting land uses within both these communities and the University.

We also recognize that the traffic demands placed on this corridor are approaching the upper limits of what a roadway of this type can typically accommodate. As a result, reconstructing the roadway to accommodate current demand while also facilitating improvements to transit service has emerged as an important objective of this project. This concept has roots in the underlying recommendations of the 2004 Connecticut River Crossing Transportation Study and PVTA’s recent Comprehensive Service Analysis, and will be carried forward by the Transit Mobility Planning and Alternatives Study, which is investigating the feasibility of transit improvements for the PVTA’s B43 route. This bus line travels 10 miles, primarily along Route 9, and links downtown Northampton, Smith College, commercial areas in Hadley, the University of Massachusetts, and downtown Amherst. It is a prime candidate for improved transit facilities, including elements of a rapid bus system (signal priority, improved fare collection and station design, pedestrian and bicycle access to stations, etc.). Once completed, the recommendations of this study can be integrated into the Route 9 roadway project.

Existing Conditions

The study area includes Route 9 from its intersection with Route 47 to its intersection with South Maple Street. Route 9 within the study area is functionally classified as a Principal Arterial running in the east-west direction, and is under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Land use along Route 9 within the study area indicate active development and an evolving use pattern: elements from the full range of land use types, from rural and natural, to village center, to developed commercial centers, are present. Specific uses include agricultural, intermittent residential, and retail/commercial. The posted speed limit varies from 35 miles per hour (mph) to 45 mph depending on direction of travel and location.

Within the Town of Hadley, Route 9 is generally a four-lane roadway, providing two travel lanes in each direction with exclusive left-turn lanes at major signalized intersections. From west to east, these conditions exist from the Connecticut River to approximately 700 feet east of Middle Street, then again for an area in the vicinity of the signalized intersection at the Lowes driveway, and from the Home Depot driveway signal to University Drive in Amherst. However, sections of Route 9 within the study area are limited to one travel lane in each direction, creating a bottleneck for traffic flow along this key regional corridor. Marked shoulders are present throughout the study area, with intermittent sections of granite curbing. No exclusive pedestrian or bicycle accommodations are present along the corridor, though pedestrian facilities are provided at signalized intersections including crosswalks and pedestrian phasing. The lack of non-vehicular accommodations along the corridor limits the ability of the local and regional population to make healthy transportation choices. This is especially restrictive given the location of Hadley’s town center in the vicinity of the Middle Street intersection, and the nearby recreational Norwottuck Rail Trail.

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