Amherst seeks roundabout near UMass campus

STAFF PHOTO

STAFF PHOTO STAFF PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-01-2024 11:50 AM

AMHERST — Plans for a roundabout to replace the signalized intersection at University Drive and Amity Street, a major gateway to the University of Massachusetts, are moving forward.

The Town Council recently voted to ask its Town Services and Outreach Committee to report back with a recommendation on the roundabout by May 6, along with providing advisories on a series of other projects that will make changes to the public ways that are being coordinated by the Department of Public Works. Those improvements include adding crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes to sections of Belchertown Road in the East Amherst village, along Heatherstone Road and on West Street at Potwine Lane.

“These are pretty straightforward changes. We’re mostly adding sidewalks,” DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring told councilors.

The most significant change would be to put a roundabout at University Drive and Amity Street, which carries a significant amount of traffic to and from the UMass campus, as well as to the businesses, medical offices and apartments along the corridor.

A memo from Town Manager Paul Bockelman and Mooring provides a conceptual plan, an explanation of how the project would proceed and the support from UMass: “The traffic analysis and the construction plans were prepared by the university. The town is seeking state funding for the project via the MassWorks Infrastructure Grant program. The grant would fund the installation of the roundabout and repaving of University Drive to Northampton Road. Project construction will be handled by the town.”

Previously, a mixed-use project with 85 apartments proposed for the 5.3-acre site at 422 Amity St., which includes the former Rafters Sports Bar and Restaurant building, depicted the roundabout, with information supplied to town officials showing that such a development could assist Amherst in winning state grant money from the MassWorks program.

The other projects being forwarded are primarily about improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists.

On a 900-foot section of Belchertown Road from the intersection of College and South East streets to the entrance to Colonial Village Apartments, the town would use a $755,000 MassWorks Infrastructure Program grant for sidewalk and bicycle improvements. The changes include adding one crosswalk at the entrance to Colonial Village, which will allow access to a westbound bus stop for the Way Finders affordable housing project being planned, and designating bicycle lanes on both sides of Belchertown Road. This work will be complete in advance of the opening of the new elementary school a short distance away on South East Street at the current Fort River School site.

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On Heatherstone Road, from Pelham Road to Aubinwood Road, a sidewalk would be constructed and crosswalks installed, along with two or three mini roundabouts, serving as traffic-calming measures, at intersections. To do this work, the center planter median along Heatherstone would be removed.

Finally, with Potwine Lane residents concerned about no crosswalks to get across West Street to and from the existing bus stops, and speeding vehicles on that stretch, changes would serve to slow traffic as vehicles approach this area and as they approach and leave the Pomeroy Lane and West Street roundabout completed last year. The work would add two crosswalks, move two existing bus stops to improve the pull-off areas for buses, add 600 feet of a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the east side of West Street and install two splitter islands on West Street to promote traffic calming.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.