DALTON — A proposal to reconstruct Dalton Division Road drew a range of reactions from residents on Monday, from concern that widening the roadway would encroach on their space to cheers from those who welcome the safety improvements.
During a public meeting at Nessacus Regional Middle School, residents who live along Dalton Division Road said they have witnessed the current safety and traffic issues firsthand, particularly at the intersection with Williams Street and Washington Mountain Road.
"Most of the accidents (at the intersection) happen between 10 o'clock at night and four o'clock in the morning," said Andy Wrinn, who has lived on Dalton Division Road by the Williams Street intersection for 38 years. "We've got so many car parts on our lawn we could open a store."
The town is asking the state Department of Transportation to reconstruct the 1.5 mile stretch of road, which straddles the Pittsfield/Dalton line. The $10 million project likely would be years away.
If the project is approved by MassDOT's Project Review Committee at its Oct. 6 meeting, the design phase will begin in late summer or early fall of 2017 and could take two to three years, according to Rebecca Williamson, assistant vice president and senior project manager for Greenman-Pedersen Inc. GPI was retained by the town to guide development through the submission of a project initiation form to the state.
Williamson presented a slideshow on Monday highlighting the road's issues and proposed design solutions. Minimal signage, a deteriorated guardrail, worn pavement and limited sight distances are problems along the road, she said.
Dalton Police have confirmed frequent speeding through the Williams Street intersection, and the road also lacks both shoulders and sidewalks for pedestrians, she said.
State and federal guidelines governing the project require two 11-foot travel lanes, two 5.5-foot sidewalks and two 5-foot shoulders, Williamson said. The town will decide how to redesign the intersection — with a roundabout, lights or some other method of improving traffic flow, she said.
"The goal of this project is to create a safe situation for all users, [and] minimize impact [to] abutters," she said.
Williamson told residents that more detailed survey work needs to be completed before any potential impacts to private property could be identified.
Based on preliminary designs, all the proposed changes would fit within the town's current 66-foot right-of-way, she said.
Residents expressed concern about how much of the existing right-of-way that the town does not currently use would be utilized during reconstruction.
"We are very concerned about what this means for our development," said Judy Lederer, a trustee at Silver Maple Farm, a condominium development adjacent to Dalton Division Road.
"We are not going to go out and spend a lot of money on our property if you are going to make changes that'll impact [it]," she said.
Williamson said the project would utilize approximately 43 feet of space, widening the existing roadway by approximately 7 feet.
Some audience members called the extent of the project "overkill."
James Moran said the plan would bite into the size of a turnaround he added to his driveway.
And Timothy Sova said the current distance from his dining room to the curb is 22 feet. "What do I do with my property and the 5-foot loss?" he asked?
Impacts to private property would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis if they arise, Williamson said.
Multiple bicyclists voiced support for the project, saying that current conditions of the road preclude many people from walking, running or biking on it.
"If it's going to improve traffic flow and be safe for pedestrians, I think that's more important than being inconvenienced for a while," said Jim Czarnecki, an avid bicyclist who lives off nearby Williams Street in Pittsfield.
One audience member said she drives to another location with sidewalks to exercise. She avoids going out at peak hours due to safety concerns, she said.
"I'm glad that there is going to be something in the works," said Christopher J. Connell, Ward 4 councilor in Pittsfield. Requirements for handicapped accessibility would be challenging given the grade of the road, he said.
Other audience members asked about who would bear the design costs for the project. Williamson said she estimated design costs to run $600,000 to $700,000, which the town would be responsible for.
She said she anticipates the project would not begin construction for at least another five years.
"It's a process; it's a long process," said John W. Bartels Jr., chairman of the Dalton Select Board. "And this is just the beginning."