Resident Shira Wohlberg, right, makes a point to project manager Rebecca Williamson of Greenman-Pedersen after Tuesday's presentation.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown leg of the Mohawk Bike Trail is on track to begin construction in fiscal 2017.
The latest step in the process came Tuesday evening, when designers presented a 10 percent design review at Town Hall.
The 2.5-mile trail is planned to run mostly along the Hoosic River from the junction of Syndicate Road and North Street (Route 7) east to soon-to-be-closed Spruces Mobile Home Park on Main Street (Route 2).
Unlike a recent meeting in North Adams
, where the bike path encountered resistance from potential abutters, the Williamstown crowd was largely supportive of the plan currently on the table.
"I've been to various bike meetings for years. I'm really excited about the path," said Kevin Kennefick of Cole Avenue, whose property abuts the former Photech Mill property, which will include part of the trail as currently designed.
"I think this is fantastic. A lot of people have been putting in years to get to this point."
Kennefick appeared to speak for most of the 30 or so residents and Williams College students crammed into the Selectmen's Meeting Room.
Project manager Rebecca Williamson of engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen explained the project's history, its timeline going forward and the bike path's layout.
Williamson said that if all continues as scheduled, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will hold a 25 percent design hearing before the end of the year, and the final design will be completed in time for FY17 to take advantage of the Transportation Improvement Program money already budgeted for the trail.
There are still a number of questions to be resolved. The biggest is how and when the North Adams leg of the bike path will be ready to move forward. Ultimately, planners hope for a continuous trail from Williamstown through North Adams to Adams, where it will connect to the existing 11-mile Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
For now, officials are ready to move forward with the Williamstown leg so it is in place when North Adams is set to go.
"We chose to end it [on Route 2] because North Adams has indicated it makes sense for multiple routes into the city," Williamstown Town Planner Andrew Groff said on Tuesday evening.
Though supportive of the path, the Williamstown audience was not without questions, most of which focused on safety issues.
The one road crossing on the Williamstown path is at Cole Avenue, where the path will come out near Stetson Road and cross Cole to the former Photech site.
Sarah Gardner asked if the town would consider using speed bumps to slow traffic on Cole Avenue, a heavily used connector between North Hoosac and Main Street. Williamson said current plans call for signage and road markings to slow vehicles but designers can "look at" adding speed bumps.
Signage also will be prevalent on North Street near Syndicate Road. The plan calls for a driveway from Syndicate to a small, six- to eight-vehicle lot at the path's western terminus.
Several attendees expressed concern about safety around the North Street-Syndicate Road intersection, already a known traffic hazard for vehicles. Williamson said part of the project includes realigning the intersection to make Syndicate Road come to a true "T" intersection with U.S. Route 7.
"You will have signing in both directions on Route 7 and signing on Syndicate Road alerting people to the trail and the fact there will be bicycles on the road," she said. "If speed is an issue, that's an enforcement issue, not a design issue."
Another potential enforcement issue: keeping motorized vehicles off the bike path itself.
Williamson said the path is intended for bicycles, pedestrians, joggers and rollerbladers but will be wide enough to allow emergency vehicles to use it. And the intersection at Cole Avenue will be designed to discourage but not prohibit vehicle access for that reason.
She was asked about using removable bollards that would block vehicles but could be removed for first responders.
"Bollards are no longer recommended [for bike paths]," Williamson said. "Too many injuries and deaths have been attributed to them."
Kennefick, who was one of the more enthusiastic and vocal supporters of the bike path itself, used the meeting as an opportunity to again voice concerns about the town's decision to designate the Photech property for the development of affordable housing.
"It's a very crowded neighborhood, and the town wants to make it denser," Kennefick said. "I would like the town to hold a meeting in the neighborhood because no one has any idea what the town is talking about.
"I think [the bike path] can be a positive thing. ... I hope the town will have a meeting specifically in the neighborhood to talk about how we can improve that neighborhood."