Some of the street improvements being planned for Park Street include more visible crosswalks and new sidewalks. Work will begin on the project next week.
ADAMS, Mass. — The long-planned project to renovate Park Street into a safer and more pedestrian-friendly roadway is expected to begin next week.
But local business owners are worried that the three-month enterprise will disrupt business and deter patrons.
Nearly 50 residents and business owners attended on Tuesday the first of three public hearings on the construction phase of the project, held at the Adams Visitors Center.
"This is a very important public conversation about a project that's going to affect all our lives for a few months," said Town Administrator Jonathan Butler. "We can't accommodate everything but anything we want hear tonight so we can try to do the best we can to make this process as smooth as possible. ...
"It means a lot for us to get feedback."
The construction is being funded through a Community Development Block Grant and another $223,500 in Chapter 90 funds after the low bid came in at $915,000, higher than the $690,000 budget.
The main issues of concern for the Park Street proprietors was access to their shops and restaurants during a construction that will include the resurfacing of nearly 1,100 feet of roadway and replacement of the sidewalks on each side of the street.
Owners peppered project engineer David Loring of Tighe & Bond about the restrictions they may face during the construction, including a loss of parking, how delivery trucks will get in and whether their customers will have access.
Loring said very little excavation will take place, meaning the street will remain open with two lanes for most of the construction period.
A 300-foot section of sewer will have to be replaced, several catch basins revamped and a hydrant moved into one of the planned crosswalk bumpouts. That work will be done in the beginning, before sidewalk and curbing replacement begins; the final phase will be milling and repaving the roadway. The work will also include decorative elements, such as plantings and benches.
Crews with contractor J.H. Maxymillion will be working five days a week from 7 to 5; Loring assured attendees that no equipment will be left on the street after several queries on that issue.
The sidewalk replacement will necessarily disrupt some businesses, he said, but efforts will be made to ameliorate that as much as possible, such as covering wet areas with plywood and doing it in sections.
"I'm not going to promise you the world," Loring said after multiple questions addressing the same items. "It is construction and we'll try to make accommodations for it."
Parking meters are also going to be replaced and Police Chief Richard Tarsa said his force would be alert to motorists monopolizing unmetered parking spots and told businesses to keep the department or Town Hall informed of potential scofflaws.
The goal, said Loring, is to create a safer street by narrowing the travel lanes and creating a 5-foot bike lane.
The current wider travel lanes "allows people to move faster than they should," he said, but by narrowing it down a standard 11-foot lane, "everyone has their space and it has visual cues to draw you into their footprint."
Butler said the visual cues — narrower travel lanes, the bike lane, the bumpouts, the more prominent crosswalks — were all designed to slow traffic along the main corridor. The heavily trafficked Park Street is part of Route 8, a main connector between North and South County.
Loring said the project is also "really designed to dress up the street."
"A large portion of the project is making it pedestrian friendly and bike friendly," he said.
In answer to a question about the design, Butler said other aspects such as diagonal parking and more prominent bumpouts were stricken from the plan after initial public hearings.
"Traffic calming was a significant aspect but people showing up for the plans were adamantly against the bumpouts so they were taken out," he said.
Tarsa said emergency services saw no difficulties in the new streetscape, and expressed his own opinion that the design was safe and workable, comparing it to changes made in Watervliet, N.Y., which, like North Adams, includes diagonal parking.
"Everything put together will increase pedestrian and bicycle safety," he said, adding, "the public has to exercise some common sense."
The project will remove about 10 parking spots from the current 69 or so; trees along the street will also be removed because of their unsuitability, said Loring. "The trees just didn't fit properly that's why they were dying."
Butler said the town's website could be utilized to update residents and business owners of the work schedule after several business owners asked about being alerted when construction would happen in front of their buildings.
Signage for public parking will also be considered, he said, including possibly a sign indicating the upper Town Hall parking lot could be open for weekend use.
Butler encouraged anyone with questions or difficulties to contact Town Hall, either his office of the Community Development Office.
A second public meeting will be held midway through the project and another near the end.
"I think these next three months will be a little bit of a challenge," Selectman Jeffrey Snoonian said. "But if you've done what you've done make your business grow and you are vigilant [in holding people to their words], I think we'll get through it just fine and you'll have a street with a little bit less parking but more inviting to pedestrians.
"It's designed for a really nice leisurely stroll down a historic downtown."
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