NORTH ADAMS - MASSMoCA, the Clark Art Institute and other cultural attractions in the North Adams-Williamstown area are once again accessible to eastern Mass. residents without a long Mass Pike re-route or a detour through dueling banjos country in the Berkshires.
On Dec. 15 the state reopened the stretch of Route 2 that runs through Charlemont, Savoy, Florida and North Adams after $23 million in rapid-fire repairs. The road, a key-east west link in that corner of the state, was washed out in Tropical Storm Irene in late August.
Take it from someone with family in North Adams and an interest in MASSMoCA, the Clark, the Williams College art museum and various other attractions: doing without Route 2 would have made a winter trip here less than appealing. The state-recommended detour added considerably to the travel time. In November we took a shorter route recommended by MASSMoCA, which traversed some beautiful valleys and slopes in the backwoods north of Route 2, but also brought us to a near head-on with a convoy of giant dump trucks carrying fill for the Route 2 project, on a narrow two-lane blacktop with no shoulders. There were Trucks use lower gears signs and hair-raising descents.
I spent a night out on Interstate 93 during the Fast 14 bridge-replacement project for a story, and was flabbergasted by what they could do in the course of a week. I'm even more impressed by the Route 2 project, which we drove this week. We'd heard a bridge was out and some other areas might have seen a little washout, but in fact it looks like several hundreds yards of roadway have been replaced (in different stretches), in one of the most hilly and remote high-traffic stretches in the state, through steep hills, with precipitous dropoffs to the Cold River on the other side. Banks and long cement retaining walls are or will be rebuilt, entire stretches of river seem to have new channels, landslides have been cleared away, etc. We got our $23 million worth, although it looks like the project will continue through the winter.
It's safe to go back to MoCA, in other words, and now through Sunday is your last chance to see Katharina Grosse's "One Floor Up More Highly" (right) in the museum's ginormous Gallery 5. Strangely, it bears a certain resemblance to the piles of fill at the Route 2 constuction sites. A museum official said today that they didn't think the road closure had affected visitor traffic much, but that they've noticed more people coming through since Route 2 reopened on Dec. 15, so maybe it hurt a little bit after all.
One other note. If any of you are fond of stopping in the Mohawk Trail State Forest during the warm weather months to use the unofficial nude beach just downstream from the state campground, I have bad news. The trees that shielded the site from the road are gone.