PITTSFIELD -- The shortest distance between South Street and North Street -- both ways -- is finally a straight line.
The original two-way traffic pattern that once connected both major thoroughfares was reinstated early Thursday evening, replacing the Park Square rotary that directed drivers from South Street to North Street for more than 50 years.
The circular traffic pattern eliminated, northbound vehicles on South Street can continue unimpeded to North Street. In addition, South Street motorists are now able to turn onto West Street by the Crowne Plaza Hotel and West Street drivers headed toward Park Square can now make a left-hand turn onto North Street.
The remainder of the traffic pattern that links North, South, East and West streets at Park Square remains the same.
Construction vehicles and cement barriers are blocking off vehicles from circling Park Square at East Street until workers can permanently extend the East Street median to the park. This ends a dangerous the shortcut to Allen Street and City Hall, which pleases local police.
"We're hoping changing the traffic flow will alleviate a lot of accidents at Park Square," Pittsfield Capt. David Granger said in an Eagle interview last week.
While city police will monitor "for the first couple of days" how motorists handle the traffic pattern change, city officials said drivers should be able to rely on the directional signs installed by Mass Highway.
The $2.6 million project is one of four totaling $6.4 million that MassHighway is overseeing to improve the traffic flow and aesthetics of the Park Square area. Contractors already have installed new traffic lights at the intersections of West and Center streets and West Housatonic and South streets.
The West and Center lights were activated earlier this month, while the ones at West and South streets have yet taken over for the existing lights.
Now that winter has settled in, MassHighway officials said all four projects will be completed next spring.
MassHighway initially had planned to switch traffic patterns by the end of September, but the state agency had several delays involving a subcontractor delivering the signal equipment and Western Massa-chusetts Electric installing a new service line to the traffic lights.
To reach Dick Lindsay: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 496-6233.