The blue line is where the proposed rail trail will cross Crane Avenue. To the left, on the south side of Crane, a new parking lot will be created.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city has passed the 75 percent design milestone on the extension of the Ashulwilticook Rail Trail and is now starting the permitting process.
"The bike path is on schedule and on budget. We are at the 75 percent design phase for the project, which is a required milestone in the process. We just recently saw a draft of a notice of intent for the wetland permit, which is required for the project," Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath said this week.
From its terminus at the Berkshire Mall, the plan now brings the trail closer to Route 8 to limit potential conflicts between the truck traffic on the Unistress property and users of the trail.
On the Crane Avenue end, a proposed parking lot was moved from its originally eyed location in the middle of the John's Building Supply property to across the street, behind Aldi's and Tractor Supply.
"We were concerned about how that would impact John's Building Supply. It is a tight site in the way vehicles circulate in and out and often these are contractor vehicles so they are larger, or even on occasion they have deliveries on 18-wheelers and the turning radius is wide and large," McGrath said.
McGrath said where the original parking lot was, one of the entrances and exits for vehicles would have been blocked off -- leaving just one way in and out of the property. That would require trucks to back in, causing traffic issues, and giving vehicles little space to maneuver. McGrath said the new orientation moves the parking across from there and a safe crossing will be added for people to cross Crane Avenue.
Moving north, the bike trail itself will still cut through John's Building Supply and make its way toward the mall. It will then circumvent where Unistress is using property, cross the road to the Berkshire County House of Corrections, and then weave back to the existing overflow parking lot. Additional parking in that area will be construction and the trail will run alongside the existing overflow lot. The current spots in the main parking area now will be moved and the trail will cut through where those are, wrap around the bathroom facility, and then reconnect with the existing trail.
McGrath said the redesign has been agreed to by all parties. Fuss and O'Neill is working with the state on finalizing the specifics.
The city funded the design and the state is paying for the actual construction. This summer, the city will be working to get permits from the Conservation Commissions in both Lanesborough and in Pittsfield and securing easements from a half-dozen property owners for permanent or temporary use of their land.
"They take a fair bit of time to get underway," McGrath said of the easements from the Berkshire Mall, the Baker Hill Road District, the state's Division of Capital Assets Management, Unistress, Allendale Shopping, Miller Petroleum, and John's Building.
"We're on schedule for an April 2019 construction. It will be bid in the winter," McGrath said.
The extension has been in the works for six years. In 2012, the city had made a pitch to get construction funding for it but did not secure it. The state then followed shortly with a $2.5 million allocation through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program for it.
The trail has been slowly extending over time. Last year, the state cut the ribbon on another 1.2-mile extension to Adams' Lime Street. This 1.5-mile addition to the south will add to the 12.2 miles already open. Projects to expand farther north are expected to follow and conceptual plans to continue through Pittsfield to the south have been previously developed.
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