Exit 1: West Stockbridge officials await details on toll gate plans


Photo Gallery | Exit 1 Tollbooth

WEST STOCKBRIDGE — Town officials are eager to learn exactly how the state plans to deal with the defunct Massachusetts Turnpike toll gate and Exit 1 interchange once manned tolling is eliminated later this month.

They'll get their chance this week when the state Department of Transportation hosts an informational meeting with on the proposed project, which will also address the demolition of the little-known tunnel beneath the highway.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the DOT's District One offices in Lenox.

The work is part of the state's transition to the All Electronic Tolling system, which will compile data being scanned electronically via overhead gantries. Motorists that do not have an E-ZPass account will be billed by mail.

Selectman Chairman Curt Wilton said earlier this week that, unlike most of the rest of the exit gates along the Massachusetts Turnpike, the West Stockbridge toll gate spans the entire highway. Most of the other gates on the turnpike are accessed by on- and off-ramps, he said.

"You're going to have cars going 70, 75 mph along that road," he said. "My understanding is that DOT plans to widen the road. Which they'll have to do, because you're going to have cars that will have to slow down to get off and cars that will be trying to merge with the traffic. I'm a little concerned."

Judith Riley, a spokeswoman for DOT, said next week's meeting will present specific plans for the demolition work.

In addition, she said, DOT officials will discuss the timeline, potential noise issues, hours of construction and traffic impacts. The actual work, she said, is scheduled to begin Oct. 28.

Wilton said he would be on hand to learn the logistics of how extensive the DOT's renovations will be, and how they will connect to town roads.

Complicating matters, said Town Administrator Mark Webber, would be the tunnel that was built underneath the road for turnpike employees to access the toll booths.

"We don't really know how the DOT plans to address that tunnel," he said.

The other interchange in the county, Exit 2 in Lee, doesn't face the same challenge, according to Lee Town Administrator Robert Nason.

"We're a little different, because our exits are at the end of the off-ramp," he said. "Beyond that is a stop sign to access the highway."

Nason said the town reviewed the construction plans with DOT and "we're pretty comfortable with them."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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