Decades of talk about Lee traffic

Tuesday January 22, 2013

The January 18 Berkshire Eagle article "Truck traffic taking its toll" brought back memories from the early 1950s when I was very young, watching construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) and the Lee interchange, just a stone's throw from the end of Tyringham Road where I lived. I recall the roads' completion as well as the discussions shortly afterward about the next step being a connector road to Northern Berkshire County. This would have been ideal timing, as the purchasing of required property and granting of rights of way would likely have been more easily "bundled" then into this very significant road project.

Fast forward many years with no activity. Traffic studies have repeatedly revealed the increase in commercial traffic through Main Street in Lee, as there is no alternative route, other than taking Route 102 to Stockbridge for a tight right turn northbound onto Route 7. Even without studies, all one needs to do is take an occasional glance at Main Street to witness the early morning until evening parade of tractor-trailers, flatbeds, tankers and other commercial vehicles.

So, what to do? A north-south connector highway bypassing Lee has been proposed on several occasions, each time rejected by another set of objectors. Stockbridge will have no part in allowing a northbound interchange from I-90 through any of its property, and when Stockbridge says "No" the end result is No.

But Lee has objected passionately in the past as well, with Main Street merchants banding together quite a few years back objecting on the basis that a "bypass" would devastate their businesses. At the time I felt it would help more than hurt, as heavy commercial vehicles, which would be delighted to avoid Main Street, would be eliminated except for local deliveries. This would alleviate the ongoing and growing congestion greatly and, at least in my opinion, make Lee and its Main Street a far more desirable destination, bringing more tourists and revenues to local merchants.

So it appears the traffic and feasibility studies will continue, and we'll likely be back at the table discussing a bypass somewhere in the future. I will, as I always have, support that notion. I was a very young boy when this issue began, and with any luck I'll be a very old man by the time it's resolved. DAVE SIMMONS



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