Saturday April 28, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON

There is something called "The Law of Unintended Consequences." You do something you think will help, and it turns out that the results are not what you expected. As anyone who drives through Great Barrington knows, to get anywhere in Berkshire County, you have to take Route 7, otherwise known as Main Street in the best town in America.

We all know that under the guidance of their town manager, the junior geniuses on the Great Barrington Board of Selectmen have decided to reconstruct Main Street. Before the town could use the available governmental money to dig, bringing traffic to a halt and creating traffic jams worse than James Taylor days at Tanglewood, they had to allow another dig courtesy of the water people who need to replace the pipes.

This additional dig, which would have to come first and is happening now, will hereafter be known as "The Little Dig," in contrast to the mother of all Great Barrington digs, "The Big Dig." Even The Little Dig is proving somewhat hellacious. The police are very busy directing traffic and they are working very hard. Nevertheless, the town is already a mess. When you go to make the world's hardest left turn off The Hill, the traffic is backed up to California. Chaos, I tell you. To reiterate, the effects of all of this are faced by those from North Adams to Sheffield. Obviously, those locals in the know have to find shortcuts.

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Well, to get to the point, the Chartocks love to walk around Lake Mansfield, the jewel of the town.


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You can hear the birds and the peepers and the crickets when you walk around the lake. The road is very curvy. There used to be land on both sides of it but now, erosion on the lake side has
resulted in places where there's nowhere to go if a car is coming around a curve. In fact, if you step off the road you end up swimming. This is the Garden of Eden that the Lake Mansfield Alliance has worked so assiduously to keep in its pristine shape. Sometimes people fish the lake from the side of this potentially dangerous road. Sometimes, they bike it. Sometimes, they walk it.

By now I'll bet that you are way ahead of me. It turns out that people have figured out that the road around this pristine lake, this gem of an environmental asset, is a shortcut to avoid the mess that is taking place on Main Street in the best little town in the country.

Now, when you walk around the lake, you do so at your own peril. That's because some idiot will gun his vehicle at 50 miles an hour and scare you half to death. That's 30 miles an hour faster than the law allegedly allows. I presume the police, who are very busy with the chaos in town, can't be in two places at once even though we have a very large police department.

My suggestion would be for volunteers, maybe the Selectmen who appear to have forgotten about the law of unintended consequences, to take turns with the town manager flagging down potentially killer cars.

The police have installed one of those signs that tells you how fast you are going, but the people who are driving at breakneck speed down Alford Road don't care. In fact, some of them evidently wish to demonstrate their manhood by pretending that they are at Indianapolis. I think they derive great joy watching the numbers on the sign go up.

The point of this column is that the Selectmen have made this mess. Now let them deal with consequences.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.