Great Barrington Select Board OKs funding for one-way plan for Lake Mansfield Road


GREAT BARRINGTON — A one-way traffic pattern for Lake Mansfield Road is looking more likely after the Select Board unanimously approved funding for a plan that would radically restructure the road and lakefront.

But a last-minute change to the wording of the plan left open the possibility of a two-way option.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Department of Public Works Supervisor Joe Sokul said via a statement to the board.

Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force members Christine Ward and Deb Phillips on Monday presented the board with the findings of a study the group has conducted about the area. Phillips addressed the sizable crowd in the room — about 50 residents — and pointed out that the task force had a number of open meetings and forums to keep the community involved.

She said community involvement in the process was essential throughout.

"There was no idea that was not discussed," Phillips said. "Everything that got suggested got an objective hearing."

After almost a year of research, though, the task force found that there was only one workable option: convert the southern end of Lake Mansfield road into a one-way route heading north, with a bike lane and a pedestrian lane and a reinforced barrier on the lake edge. The task force found that a mix of state and federal grants could fund the project, defraying the cost of the project and maintaining the health of the lake.

The public was divided on the plan, with most of the friction coming from the traffic pattern on the road. The majority of those in attendance appeared to favor a two-way solution, with speakers opposing the one-way traffic pattern roughly 2 to 1.

Kevin Guerrero, who had previously gathered over 1,000 signatures opposing the one-way traffic pattern, said he was unsure the petition had changed anything.

"The weight of the petition is not what it once was," he said.

A number of people spoke in support of the project, praising the task force and expressing their faith in the findings.

Peter Frank said he would have preferred no car traffic on the road, but if there had to be vehicles it was best to be one way. He called the plan a "slam dunk on every level."

Select Board Vice Chairman Stephen Bannon made a motion, written by absent Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin, to approve the task force plan and move forward with obtaining grant funding for the project.

The motion was amended by board member Dan Bailly to reflect the mood of the town on the question of the road. Bailly adjusted the language to allow the task force to also look for funding for a two-way solution.

With the adjustment made, the board voted unanimously to endorse the task force's mission going forward. The next hurdle for the task force is the annual town meeting, when the public will vote to approve town funding for the project.

Whether one-way or two-way, the project has taken a large step in the right direction.

"We really have to move this project along," Bannon said. "It's been too many years."


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