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Colrain eyes streetscape to revitalize town center

Recorder/Paul Franz
The intersection of Greenfield Road and Route 112 in Colrain may get some upgrades.

Recorder/Paul Franz The intersection of Greenfield Road and Route 112 in Colrain may get some upgrades.

COLRAIN — The traditional town center, at the three-way intersection of Route 112, Jacksonville and Greenfield roads, has few sidewalks and no designated places for on-street parking. And yet, it is a place in which residents might walk to the town Post Office, to the Griswold Memorial Library, to the Colrain Central School, to the town’s Pitt House museum and, when it was open, to the Green Emporium restaurant.

Now, transportation planner Maureen Mullaney has proposed a $3 million fix for this intersection that might be eligible for complete funding by a federal-state highway program.

According to two traffic counts, between 1,500 to 1,600 vehicles per day go through the intersection.

“This is a project that should have a lot of regional support,” Mullaney said, adding that the project is a good candidate for funding because it involves a village center, that Route 112 (called “Main Road” in the town center) is part of the Franklin County Bikeway, known as the “Shelburne — Vermont Connector” on the Western Franklin Bikeway Routes Map.

Mullaney, a planner for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, is preparing a Franklin County street analysis that highlights areas that need safety improvements for pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation traffic.

The report notes that “the layout of the center is conducive to walking, but the area reviewed is not pedestrian friendly. There are very limited sidewalks and crosswalks.”

Because of the steep grade of Greenfield Road, traffic coming down the hill into the intersection is often traveling too fast, especially from vehicles going through Colrain, to or from Mount Snow in Vermont.

There is no crosswalk across Jacksonville/Greenfield roads going over to Main Road, and sight distance is very poor for pedestrians trying to cross from the east side of the road to the west side.

There is what the report calls a “slip lane” in front of an apartment complex between Jacksonville and Main roads that causes more confusion and has no sidewalks. The report notes that apartment residents often use this road configuration for parking.

Also, when the Green Emporium restaurant was open, there was no designated street parking, and when the spaces immediately around the restaurant were filled, people used a vacant lot near Greenfield/Jacksonville roads. People have to cross the intersection and walk in the roadway toward the restaurant.

The proposal included the following recommendations:

∎ Create a unified and connected network of sidewalks, ramps and crosswalks within the village center that safely link popular destinations for pedestrians and meet criteria for handicapped accessibility.

∎ Install crosswalks.

∎ Remove non-compliant signs and replace worn signs with highly reflective ones.

∎ Enforce speed limits through the village center and compliance with a stop sign at the Main Road intersection.

∎ Repair pavement and fix sharp drops at the edge of the pavement, and consider adding streetscaping, landscaping and pedestrian elements to encourage walking.

∎ Install warning signals for vehicles traveling down Greenfield Road into the town center.

∎ Place some on-street parallel parking on Main Road.

∎ A sidewalk should be constructed on the side of the roadway between Colrain Central School on Jacksonville Road and Main Road.

∎ Consider closing off the “slip road” and using that space for an ADA compliant walkway.

∎ Consider bicycle use in planned roadway and pedestrian improvement plans.

Selectmen have agreed to fill out a project initiation form, although they are not yet sure how the town would pay for its engineering costs, which could hit $300,000.

Mullaney said the town could save some of its Chapter 90 state highway funds over a few years. However, Town Coordinator Kevin Fox pointed out that $300,000 is about a year’s worth of Chapter 90 money for Colrain.

Mullaney and Meghan Rhodes told selectmen that the proposed streetscape plan for the village center may be eligible for 100 percent reimbursement if it is accepted for a federal Transportation Improvement Project grant.

Mullaney estimated that the proposed improvements would cost about $3 million, with 80 percent reimbursed through federal transportation grant funds and 20 percent from the state.

The town, however, would have to pay for the engineering and design work.

“I want you to be aware this isn’t a quick process, but the payoff is 100 percent — which is hardly ever done,” Mullaney told selectmen. “Sometimes, we’ve had (TIP) projects for 10 to 15 years. Other times, smaller projects have gotten into the queue much more quickly.”

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