Motorists who use a heavily traveled, four-mile section of Routes 7 and 20 in Lenox and Pittsfield are on alert for potential traffic snarls during the peak of the tourist season over the next three months because of a major $3 million resurfacing operation.
The project stretches from the state highway's intersection with Route 7A in Lenox, adjacent to the MassDOT Region 1 headquarters, to the Guardian/Berkshire Life traffic signal on South Street.
Preliminary work on sidewalks, drainage improvements and wheelchair ramps are underway and slated to continue until July 11, according to an announcement from the state Department of Transportation.
But the major impact on traffic flow begins with the start of the milling procedure. Electronic message boards on the side of the highway are warning drivers to expect delays as of this Monday.
The 10 days of first-phase resurfacing, including the painting of temporary pavement markings each day, is expected to be completed by June 6. Local police details are assigned to help direct traffic.
While two-way traffic will be maintained at all times, the announcement emphasized, motorists will be restricted to one lane in each direction whenever milling or paving is underway.
The highway section is one of the county's busiest, with 24,000 to 34,000 vehicles a day during peak hours, depending on the exact location and time of year, according to MassDOT's average daily traffic statistics for both directions.
Only the Coltsville area in Pittsfield, where Routes 8 and 9 intersect, has a higher traffic count, according to Eagle archives.
Work will be underway on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.. But during milling and paving, MassDOT is allowing work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. "for efficiency and production," officials stated.
The tentative start date for laying down new pavement is July 11, continuing for about 10 days, followed by permanent lane markings and follow-up work.
The DOT expects the majority of the project to be completed in early August, though the official end date is Sept. 14.
Lane Construction Corp. of Lenox Dale is the contractor for the $3,046,579 project.
The upgrade is under the supervision of the new District 1 Highway Director Francisca Heming, who was appointed to the position about three weeks ago, following the retirement of Peter Niles.
Heming, a native of the Dominican Republic who holds a master's degree in civil engineering from Norwich (Vt.) University, originally was hired by longtime District 1 Highway Engineer Ross Dindio. He left in 2006 for a post as chief of operations at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.