PITTSFIELD -- Traffic around Berkshire Medical Center could flow more smoothly within three years -- with the help of $6 million in federal highway funds.

The City Council's Finance Committee on Wednesday recommended acceptance of $350,000 in Federal Highway Administration funds for early design work for street and traffic and pedestrian flow improvements around the hospital complex. The full council is expected to approve the grant as well at its next meeting.

The project area spans three intersections: North and Charles streets in the north; Wahconah, Charles and Seymour streets in the west and Tyler and First streets in the south.

The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission regards these improvements as the county's No. 1 transportation need.

"It's to improve the traffic safety and efficiency of movements in the north end of North Street," said Jon W. Dietrich, an engineer with Fuss & O'Neill of West Springfield, the firm chosen to design the project.

The genesis of the BMC traffic project dates back to a Fuss & O'Neill report, the Downtown Pittsfield Circulation Plan, which was issued in 2006.

That report recorded that between 1998 and 2002, there were 95 accidents at the First and Tyler streets intersection -- tops in the city -- and numerous other traffic problems in the given area. "Undersignalized intersections" along northern North Street contribute to "delays and queue lengths throughout the area," the report states.


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The project seeks to "eliminate backup on Tyler Street" and improve general traffic flow in the area, shift Charles Street to align with Springside Avenue, thus combining two signalized North Street intersections into one and make the area safer for pedestrians.

Additional traffic lights and crosswalks, road and lane alterations are recommended, but elements of the design remain fluid, subject to engineering determinations and input from city officials and the public during meetings.

"We, as a city, have some decisions to make," said Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood.

The preliminary design work will advance the project to 25 percent design mark. Pittsfield's contribution to this work was pegged at 20 percent, or $90,000. Collingwood expects to allocate this from Chapter 90 state aid funds.

During the next $327,000 design phase, Pittsfield will be asked to pitch in another $82,000 from Chapter 90 funds. Design of the project will be completed during the second phase.Collingwood said Pittsfield never before had to pay such expenses during his tenure. The federal government usually funds design entirely, administering the funds through the state Department of Transportation. The commissioner did not speculate why this might be.

During the next $327,000 design phase, Pittsfield will be asked to pitch in another $82,000 from Chapter 90 funds. Design of the project will be completed during the second phase.Collingwood said Pittsfield never before had to pay such expenses during his tenure. The federal government usually funds design entirely, administering the funds through the state Department of Transportation. The commissioner did not speculate why this might be.

To reach Phil Demers:

pdemers@berkshireeagle.com

or (413) 281-2859.

On Twitter: @BE_PhilD