WILLIAMSTOWN — With winter weather settling in to the Northern Berkshires, work on the new hike/bike path has stopped, except for construction of the pedestrian bridge over the Green River to connect the western part of the path to The Spruces area.
According to Andrew Groff, community development director for Williamstown, the entire route of the trail has been graded, and nearly all the section that travels through the Cole Field area has been paved. The paving of the rest of the path will continue in the spring. And although the project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2023, officials “are optimistic they’ll get it done by the fall of ’22,” Groff said.
The pedestrian bridge work, including the installation of piles into the riverbed to hold the bridge’s support structures, is ongoing, with the goal of completion by the end of winter, he noted. The abutments on each river shore already are complete.
“There is a big push to get the bridge done this winter,” Groff said.
Once the bridge is complete, installation of the asphalt surface for the rest of the path, and the hardpacked fine gravel finish through The Spruces park, will proceed as the final phase of construction, Groff said.
Construction began in spring 2021. The $5.5 million, 2.4-mile project has been in the works for more than 10 years and is being built by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
The most expensive aspect of the project is the pedestrian bridge over the Green River, Groff noted.
Benches will be set along the 12-foot-wide path, and the entire route offers views of the Berkshire Hills.
One end of the trail is situated near Syndicate and Simonds roads on the south side of the Hoosic River, Groff said. It will run alongside the Hoosic through Cole Field, cross over Cole Avenue and continue through the new Cole Apartments development and cross over the Green River near its confluence with the Hoosic River via the pedestrian bridge.
From there, it will continue along the Hoosic, passing through woodlands and cornfields, moving through The Spruces to emerge at Route 2, near the North Adams city line, where it will terminate, for now.
There are efforts to expand the trail to the north with a possible shared-use path that would meet up with the Williamstown path at Syndicate and then run north through Pownal, Vt., and into Bennington, Vt., along the old track bed of the Berkshire Hills Trolley, which went defunct in the late 1920s, leaving the unused bed.
In addition, North Adams is seeking a route through the west end that eventually would meet up with the Adams stretch of the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail on the south side of the city, bringing the entirety of the bike path through downtown North Adams.
Moving out for a bigger picture, there are a number of efforts afoot to expand on the rail trail to the south, including the recent effort to extend the trail south to Crane Avenue in Pittsfield.
Once all sections are completed during the next few decades, there could be a continuous hike/bike path from Bennington and parts north all the way south through Berkshire County and into Connecticut.