Lee eyes new rules to make crosswalks safer


LEE -- Town officials want to create a more pedestrian- and visitor-friendly downtown by reconfiguring the parking along part of Main Street.

The Board of Selectmen tonight is expected to vote on a plan that involves relocating one parking space to improve safety at the "problematic" crosswalk in front of the Salmon Run Fish House.

In addition, four parking spots will be carved out of the current bus stop across from Town Hall. The bus stop will also be moved, split among two locations: One for the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority and a second for commercial carriers, including the Peter Pan Bus Lines.

If approved at the Selectmen's regular meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, the new parking plan, endorsed by the town's Traffic Commission, will take effect Oct. 1.

Since early September, the commission, along with other town officials, has been reviewing ways to improve the downtown crosswalk/parking situation.

Police Chief Joseph Buffis believes removing the parking space adjacent to the crosswalk fronting Salmon Run will increase pedestrian safety in the walkway. The parking spot will be replicated in front of the nearby Lee Library, replacing the former Main Street Trolley stop.

"By eliminating that space, we should increase visibility for drivers approaching the crosswalk in the westbound lane," Buffis said. "That seems to be are most problematic crosswalk in the area."

Nearly four years ago, a Lee businessman, Doug Wilcox, was seriously injured when he was struck by a car while using the crosswalk at night. Since the Dec. 20, 2008, incident, Lee has had three other serious car-pedestrian accidents involving downtown area crosswalks. The latest one in May involved a Canadian motorist striking two Russian tourists crossing Housatonic Street.

"We continue to be very aggressive in monitoring our crosswalks and handing out citations when motorists fail to stop," Buffis said.

Meanwhile, converting the bus stop into four additional parking spaces should help motorists driving through, as well as looking to park, on Main Street, according to town officials. The new parking will front the branch office of Greylock Federal Credit Union and the windows and doors showrooms for Dresser-Hull Lumber and Building Supply Co.

"At times, the busses stick out into the road, so this should help the traffic flow," said Traffic Commission Chairman Jerry LePrevost.

Under the revised Main Street parking, the BRTA would have a new southbound stop at 45 Railroad St., across from the Hyde Place elderly housing. The former senior center entrance at the Airoldi Building would serve as a shelter for waiting passengers. The "B" busses will continue to use the park next to Town Hall as their northbound stop.

As for Peter Pan and other commercial bus lines, passenger pick-up and discharge would take place at the sheltered bust stop located at O'Connell's Convenience Plus, 241 Main Street, next to Lee Hardware.

Town officials say the bus operators have agreed to the changes.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.


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