|By Carley Dangona
Photos courtesy of Hard Rock International
WEST SPRINGFIELD – Hard Rock Hotel & Casino New England (HRNE) hosted a trolley tour of Memorial Avenue to highlight its plans to improve the roadway to make it a gateway into the town.
Mark Rivers, president of Bronson Companies, narrated the tour. HRNE President Tim Maland and Eastern States Exposition President and CEO Eugene Cassidy were also in attendance, along with engineering representatives from Tighe & Bond (T&B).
Rivers stated that of the proposed $35 million traffic improvement plan, $10 million would be entirely dedicated to Memorial Avenue. The goal, he said, is to provide "an attractive, consistent and safe" corridor and make the road a "grand boulevard."
The tour had four stops that highlighted real-life examples of the improvements Hard Rock envisions for Memorial Avenue such as landscaping improvements and safer pedestrian crosswalks. Alternative access to Memorial Avenue from U.S. Route 5 was not discussed.
Rivers cited uniform curbing and a complete resurfacing along the entire route from the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge that connects Agawam and West Springfield, to the Memorial Bridge Rotary, as main focuses of the efforts.
At the first stop, located at the corner of Barnard Street and Memorial Avenue, an example of landscaping improvements including flowers, shrubs and mulch was displayed to demonstrate how the road could look.
Hard Rock's plans to address safety concerns at the curve located by the Central Chevrolet dealership at 675 Memorial Ave., were illustrated at the second stop by a rendering developed by T&B.
Rivers noted the addition of a center median and the consolidation of the entryways from Bridge and New Bridges streets onto the avenue as means to lessen the occurrence of traffic accidents by providing "a safe turning movement around the bend."
Safer pedestrian crosswalks were the subject of the third stop. In addition to repainted crosswalks, Hard Rock plans to install crosswalk signals to ensure the safe passage of pedestrians to allow them to enjoy the businesses on both sides of Memorial Avenue. In addition, the proposed traffic plans include bike lanes on either side of the roadway.
The last stop was Gate 1 of Eastern States Exposition where Hard Rock seeks to relieve traffic congestion for vehicles traveling from the Agawam area. The traffic proposal includes an additional lane on the bridge that will lead into a "dedicated turning lane into the Big E," according to Rivers.
He said, "This improvement pulls people into the grounds in an easier, more efficient manner while easing congestion on the bridge, alleviating choke points where traffic backs up."
Maland said he is excited about the new destination and described the proposed transformation as "incredible" and the result of the entire team contributing to the process from their collective experiences.
The resort casino would be situated on the Gate 9 area of Eastern States Exposition's fairgrounds and would be a tenant of the property. The proposal includes a 400-room hotel, a spa, a 200,000 square-foot casino, a Hard Rock Café and a 150,000 square-foot retail area. Other features included a permanent music memorabilia display, a 25,000 square-foot convention area and a music school.
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