The plan would reduce the four lanes at present to two lanes, while adding sidewalks and a 10-foot-wide path for cyclists and pedestrians. Town leaders say that the redesign would make Howland Avenue, the section of Route 8 between the North Adams city line and the roundabout in Adams, into a safer entryway for people coming to Adams from the north.
From 3 to 7 p.m. today, the town will engage with community members about the proposal in an open house at town hall. At 6 p.m., representatives from engineering company VHB will make a presentation to the Select Board and help answer questions.
“Anybody that drives on Howland Ave. and Route 8 knows that that can be a pretty intimidating section of roadway and also that it’s not in very good shape,” Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin said in an announcement to the Select Board. “Next week we’re really looking to get public feedback and comments on the conceptual design.”
Sufficiently repairing the road would cost the town over $1 million, Town Administrator Jay Green said. That would be more than three times the annual sum that Adams receives in Chapter 90 state aid for transportation infrastructure.
By investing in engineering, the town can become eligible to access state and federal funds through the Transportation Improvement Program, Green said. The 2022 state budget included $125,000 for Adams to pursue engineering design work on Howland Avenue after state Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, filed an amendment for that purpose.
“There’s no way that we can afford to fix that roadway the right way,” Green said. “So what we want to do is address some of those issues with that roadway for the long term. ... We as a community have to invest probably well into six figures of engineering dollars in order to … access the federal and state money.”
Aiming to reduce speed, the town hopes not only to reduce wear and tear but also to improve safety and welcome visitors to its downtown, Green said. The present four-lane design, he said, is the product of “a different theory of transportation planning” and one that he sees as outdated.
“There was a lot of conversation in that urban renewal era, in the late ’60s, ’70s, and kind of creeping into the early ’80s about bypassing downtowns, moving traffic fast through downtowns,” he said. “For a municipal-maintained roadway, that’s a lot of road at a high speed for us to maintain, so it’s time to address it. It’s different now. Now, we want people to go through the downtown area and slow them down a little bit, for not only safety and traffic purposes, but to look around at how beautiful the downtown is.”
The redesign includes turning lanes for accessing businesses on the route, and the town wants to continue accommodating the businesses and residents along the route, Green said.