Crash revives calls for traffic light at Monument Mountain Regional High School exit

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GREAT BARRINGTON — For many, the Monument Mountain Regional High School exit onto Route 7 is "an accident waiting to happen."

And last week, it did — again, although there were no serious injuries.

Now Selectboard member Edward Abraham is renewing his call for a traffic light in front of the school.

"I started agitating for this when I was first elected," Abraham said.

The issue, he said, is that vehicles exiting the school to go southbound have to contend with speeding cars in the southbound and oncoming lanes. Even northbound exits are perilous, he said.

In 2005, the state Department of Transportation nixed a petition from the town and the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee to install a light at the school entrance on Route 7 after several accidents there.

But a state spokesman said at the time that the traffic flow at the intersection did not rise to the level of requiring a stoplight.

Instead, the Great Barrington and Stockbridge police departments agreed to alternate placing an officer at the intersection in the afternoon during the week, when buses and private vehicles exit the entrance at the beginning and end of the school day.

That was no help in last week's crash, however.

It was about 1 p.m. Jan. 11 when Maizy L. Hillman, 18, of Sheffield, was exiting the school and collided with a vehicle heading north on Route 7 driven by Nyassa A. Wesner, 24, of Pittsfield, according to Great Barrington Police.

Wesner, whose car then careened off the road and into a field, was transported to Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, where she was treated for minor injuries. Her three passengers, including two small children in the back seat, were not hurt.

Hillman, who also was not injured, told police her view was obscured by another vehicle entering the high school at the time. She was cited for failure to use caution when entering traffic and failing to grant a right of way to another vehicle.

"Every time you pull out of that intersection, especially if you're driving south — and that includes me — you get nervous," said schools Superintendent Peter Dillon.

He lauded the two departments for using officers to police the intersection, "but we have people going in and out of the school all day and at night."

There are flashing yellow lights at the intersection as a caution to oncoming traffic, but Dillon said a fully functioning signal would be preferable — and it would free up those officers up to do other work.

"And they're pretty exposed there, as well," he said.

He said the DOT has added more signage at the intersection and was "super helpful" when he and Barrington town officials met with the state several weeks ago on the subject.

But, Dillon said, the traffic and accident guidelines at that intersection fall below the state threshold for a traffic light.

"I don't know if our numbers would ever rise to that level, but it doesn't change the fact that [the intersection] is dangerous," he said.

According to Eagle files, there has not been a fatality at the intersection since the 1970s, but there typically are a number of "near-misses" there annually.

Another alternative, running a road from the high school to Monument Valley Road to siphon off the traffic to that road, would cost an estimated $1 million.

"There is no voter support for it," Dillon said.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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