LENOX -- A first-of-its-kind traffic signal system for Massachusetts is going to be installed on Tuesday at the dangerous intersection of Pittsfield and Holmes roads, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Department of Transportation officials credited the accelerated installation schedule to the data Lenox Police Chief Stephen O'Brien compiled about the intersection. The signal wasn't expected to be available until February or March.
The new signal -- a flashing yellow left-turn arrow -- is aimed at alerting southbound motorists on Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 and 20) to oncoming traffic. The left-turn lane is made onto Holmes Road.
The Lenox intersection had three serious accidents last fall and 17 since the beginning of 2009, according to O'Brien's report submitted to the state agency in November. The high-tech, multi-step signal system has been used in Michigan, Nevada, and the St. Louis, Mo., area with some success. Federal Highway Administration studies showed that left-turn crashes are reduced by up to 20 percent after the system is installed.
In the intersection's worst accident on Oct. 4, a four-vehicle collision resulted in critical injuries to two 89-year old Stockbridge residents, Linwood Dodge and Herman Berkman. Dodge, the driver of a 2004 Ford Explorer, died on Dec. 21, while Berkman, the passenger, is in rehabilitation and is gradually recovering.
MassDOT District 1 Director Peter Niles, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel and O'Brien decided to install the signal system on Dec. 12. State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli also pushed for a rapid state response.
Once the installation is complete by mid-week, a southbound driver on Pittsfield Road (Routes 7 & 20) will encounter one of four left-turn arrows: one steady red arrow, indicating that left turns are prohibited; one steady yellow arrow, indicating the signal is changing from green to red; a new, flashing yellow arrow, indicating that drivers can proceed with left turns after yielding to oncoming northbound vehicles; and one steady green arrow, indicating left turns are permitted because northbound traffic is stopped on red.
When the signal turns green for vehicles traveling north, southbound motorists will see a flashing yellow arrow.
"The flashing yellow arrow will be a better indicator to drivers that they must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Drivers with the flashing yellow arrow can still turn left, but only when it is safe to do so," stated MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola. "Through the use of this new signal, we're confident the turning movements will be clearer to drivers, and the intersection will be safer as a result."
MassDOT spokesman Michael Verseckes said the equipment, which required a special order, cost up to $15,000.
If it is found to be effective in reducing the accident rate at the intersection, the new signal system may be installed at other dangerous locations in Berkshire County and across the state, Verseckes added.
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