PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire County's rail trail will continue into Pittsfield in the next year and then through South County in the future.
In mid-December, construction began on the extension of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail that will connect Adams to Pittsfield.
This 1.56-mile extension will run south from the vicinity of mall Connector Road to Crane Avenue. The trail will be a 10 feet-wide, paved, shared-use path that is part of the trail system that currently runs nearly 13 miles through Lanesborough to Lime Street in Adams.
The trail extension currently under design will travel along Route 8 for several hundred feet and then around the boundaries of Unistress Construction yard. It will then go back up to the former Housatonic Railroad rail bed and at that point will stay on the old rail bed straight down to Crane Avenue.
The rail right of way was recently acquired by the state and is now under the control of the state Department of Transportation. The trail will be completely off-roadway and will cross the Connector Road and the access road to the Berkshire County House of Correction at grade.
It will come out at John's Building Supply at 1 Crane Ave. and there will be a new parking lot and restrooms constructed on the southern side of the street.
The trail is maintained by the state Department of Conversation and Recreation. The goal is to connect the county through the rail trail; a Williamstown section is out to bid and a one-mile North Adams leg is still in the planning stage.
This past fall, Maximilian Industries of Pittsfield was awarded the Pittsfield project.
"We were pleased that a local company received the award, in constructing this mile and a half extension to Crane Avenue," said Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath.
Construction was aimed to begin earlier in 2020, but there were general project delays such as the novel coronavirus pandemic. The construction bid price was $2,249,421.85 and the Notice to Proceed contract is dated Nov. 15.
McGrath said the city has worked through those challenges and really wanted to get this project out to bid on the timeframe that the commonwealth had specified.
This is anticipated to be a yearlong construction project, meaning that trailgoers may get to use the extension next spring.
“We recognize people's desires to be outdoors," McGrath said. "Not only during the pandemic but just generally, there's a lot of support for the bike path.”
This trail extension project is the result of many years of planning for a bike and pedestrian trail in Pittsfield that uses the former Housatonic Railroad corridor track. It is the northern section of an overall city plan for continuing the trail south through Pittsfield to Lenox and then through the rest of Berkshire County.
The extension has been in the works for nearly nine years. In 2012, the city had made a pitch for construction funding but did not secure it. The state then followed shortly after with a $2.5 million allocation through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program for it.
The next phase of work after the completion of the Pittsfield extension will be to extend the trail farther into the city.
“The idea is that this bike path continues straight through the Berkshires,” McGrath said. “It connects from Pittsfield to Lenox and through Stockbridge and to Great Barrington, that’s the long-range vision that this is a county bike path.”