It's business as usual in Great Barrington as Main Street construction begins
Photo Gallery | Great Barrington road construction
GREAT BARRINGTON -- The long-anticipated Main Street reconstruction got underway this week, and while one merchant has expressed concern about a traffic delay, most observers said things are pretty much business as usual.
"Traffic is slow on Main Street sometimes," said John Tracy, owner of Gorham and Norton's Grocery Store at 278 Main St. "Whenever people ask me about it, I point out that the alternative, having no traffic on the street, is not what we want."
The $6.2 million project, which calls for major improvements on a stretch of Main Street from Taconic Avenue to Cottage Street, is designed to make needed repairs to the infrastructure and make the area more pedestrian friendly. About $5.2 million would be covered by federal funding.
The plans have generated concern from residents and the business community about the impact on parking as well as vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
The project began Monday at the intersection of Main and Cottage streets, and work so far has included drainage work between the Cumberland Farms store and Cottage Street, just south of the brown bridge on Route 7.
Construction is limited to the hours of 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Both the state Department of Transportation and the contractor have insisted that two-way traffic on Main Street will be maintained. Pedestrian access to business also will be maintained.
But Robin Helfand, owner of Robin's Candy Shop at 288 Main St., said she was concerned about a shutdown of three of the four lanes on Main Street around 3 p.m. Monday near the bridge.
"It caused a slowdown involving, I would say, 50 vehicles," she said. "A lot of people were pulling U-turns on the street and yelling at police."
The town's superintendent of public works, Joe Sokul, said he investigated Helfand's complaint.
"I didn't see a shutdown myself," he said. "It looked pretty smooth to me both Monday and [Tuesday]. The only thing I can speculate on is that maybe [contractor J.P.] Maxymillian had to shut down the road briefly to allow one of their trucks to turn around. But I don't think that was for more than a few minutes."
Helfand said the town wants to see the project be successful, but a smooth flow of traffic is essential to the Main Street merchants.
"We depend on the project running smoothly," she said. "It was a clear violation of the agreement to keep traffic running both ways."
Selectman Chairman Deb-
orah Phillips said her board had not gotten any complaints so far.
"I went through Main Street at about 9:45 a.m.," Phillips said. "And there didn't seem to be any problems."
Several merchants said on Monday that traffic issues were minimal, as far as they saw.
"I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary," said David Grant, a salesman at Tune Street, at 294 Main St.
The overall distance of the project is about a half-mile. The project includes replacement of the roadway and pavement as well as improvements to drainage, curbs, traffic signals, crosswalks and lighting. Landscaping will include the introduction of 80 hew trees of a variety of species and sizes. These trees will replace the present array of trees, which will be removed.
No construction is scheduled between Castle and Elm streets during July and August. In addition, the contractor and the Department of Transportation will maintain an office at 271 Main St. for the duration of the project.
There were three police officers at the work area on Cottage Street to maintain the traffic flow and ensure pedestrian access to local business is maintained, Sokul said.
The DOT has mandated that there will be no longer than a 12-minute traffic delay along the construction route at any given day.
Sokul added that there will be weekly meetings between the town and the contractor to address any issues that may arise. The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2016. On the Web ...
For weekly updates on the reconstruction work, visit southernberkshirechamber.com.