The Farmington Canal Rail-to-Trail Association received a $5.1 million grant last Tuesday to complete the off-road bike path connecting New Haven to Northampton, Massachusetts.
The grant, awarded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, will fund the construction of a bridge in Farmington and an additional path in Plainville, Connecticut. This project — nicknamed “rails-to-trails” because it uses abandoned railroads in parts of the trail — is part of a statewide transportation infrastructure initiative approved by the State Bond Commission on Sept. 29. This broader project has amassed $17.5 million, with half that funding dedicated to bicycle or pedestrian paths.
“The completion [of the path], through downtown [New Haven] of the Farmington Canal should open up more access to more locations by bicycle,” said Doug Hausladen ’04, New Haven’s director of transportation, traffic and parking.
Hausladen said the only potential obstacle that could impede the path’s projected 2016 completion is the ongoing negotiations between property owners in the area of construction and the Farmington city planning department.
The goal of the construction occurring in New Haven is to open up bike access across the city, he added.
“For everyone commuting from Hamden, or from Newhallville/Dixwell down to the downtown, the Farmington Canal will be a great opportunity for regional connectivity on an off-street bicycle network,” Hausladen said.
Though the Farmington Canal Rail-to-Trail Association presents the bike path as a recreational feature, many currently use it for transportation, Hausladen said.
Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison said she has not seen much recreational use of the bike path. In Western Massachusetts, “rails-to-trails” paths are primarily used for leisure, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The paths are frequented by families walking dogs or biking with small children, as well as by more serious bikers.
Morrison said while the bike path remains an ongoing project, she has already seen a positive response from New Haven residents.
“It’s definitely a safe element to have — to get people from one side of town to another side and into the Hamden area,” she said.
Currently, the bike path runs from the north of the city to the south. Eventually, it will also run from the city waterfront to Hamden, Hausladen said.
The path runs through Yale-owned property from Temple Street to Prospect Street, and borders Yale property from the bottom of Lock Street to Munson Street. Students interviewed said the path could prove convenient for traveling across campus.
Analisse Marquez ’16, who lives in an off-campus residence on Lake Place, said she regularly uses the bike path to get to her engineering classes on Hillhouse Avenue.
“It’s just a better, safer and faster way to get to class than the roads because it’s a two-way path, there are no cars and there aren’t any stop lights,” Marquez said.
The bike path, when completed, will be more than 80 miles long.