Amer Raza, an engineer with MassDOT, explains plans to repave the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail to the Conservation Commission.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission has approved the state Department of Transportation's request for determination for the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail repaving project.
Amer Raza, a design engineer with MassDOT, told the commission last week that the repaving project is slated to begin in earnest next year.
"We are proposing resurfacing the rail trail starting at the Berkshire Mall all the way to the Visitors Center," Raza said. "We will be removing 1 3/4 inch of the top layer and we will relayer it with the same thickness. We are not adding anything to the existing surface."
The repaving of the 11.2 miles that runs through Lanesborough and Cheshire to Adams Visitors Center is pegged at $4,957,849.20. Funding is through the 2019 Transportation Improvement Program for the Berkshire Metropolitan Planning Organization.
That section of the trail was completed in two phases, in 2001 and 2004. A third 1.2-mile section from the Visitors Center to Lime Street was completed in 2017 and is not part of this repaving project.
"The rail trail is currently at the stage where it requires reconstruction and resurfacing," according to the MassDOT website. "Addressing these needs now will prolong service life of the trail, decrease the rate of further deterioration, and prevent more costly repairs in the future."
Culverts and catch basins also will be cleaned out along the trail with a vacuum truck and the material will be transported to a different location. The commission asked that only the vacuum truck is used and disallowed any manual cleaning.
The only other condition placed on MassDOT was that the contractor utilize runoff protection, which is in the plan.
Raza said some work may begin this year but the bulk of the project will be done in 2020.
Commissioner Cory Bishop asked that the contractor come to the commission if there are any deviations from the plan at all.
"If you find anything else along the way your subcontractor just can't fix it," he said. "They need to come back and alert us with what is happening not to hold you up but to work with you."
MassDOT appeared before the Lanesborough Conservation Commission in early April.
In other business, the commission met with Specialty Minerals Works Manager Steven Thompson and EHS Manager Sharon Burke to go over current and upcoming projects, including the north section of the quarry.
"There has been a lot of conversations as we have been coming and going with other projects," Chairman James Fassell said. "It would be good to get an update on what Specialty Minerals is doing to conserve that area and how they are dealing with other issues."
Thompson went over some of the major projects including expanding the landfill by dumping altered materials in the mined out northern area of the quarry and reclaiming it.
"We want to put high pH waste, the stuff that is coming out of the lagoons and the mill waste," he said. "That will go into the quarry."
The commission did ask if Specialty Minerals would be pushing some of the material around the quarry back in.
"It would be for aesthetic reasons," Commissioner Thomas Robinson said. "Lowering the height of those hills and reclaiming it within the quarry itself would be beneficial to the town and everybody else."
Thompson said he could not promise that the height of the hills would be lowered but did say he did not think they would get any higher with more material being put in the quarry.
He said eventually it will be capped and the company would "green it up," which the state Department of Environmental Protection agreed was a good idea.
Thompson said this process will take years.
The other major project he discussed involved the process ponds, which will be modified to capture high pH water and recycle it back through the treatment system.
The commission thanked Speciality Minerals for its transparency and forwardness with environmental concerns.
Bishop thanked them for maintaining an open line of communication with the commission but noted that a lot of the reporting they receive from Specialty Minerals is beyond them.
"I would say a lot of that stuff if we were to try to read it would be stuff that we wouldn't understand," he said. "As a commission I think we have to understand what is going on in these reports and what information we are getting ... we consider you guys a business partner and we would just like to have a good relationship."
Thompson agreed the reporting is a bit complicated but told the commissioners to feel free to ask any questions whenever they want.