Temporary fix sought for crumbling Lake Mansfield Road

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The road around Lake Mansfield has long been in bad shape, and now it's at the breaking point — literally.

"The road is falling apart," said town Select Board member William Cooke. "There are certain stretches of it that are just pothole."

Town road and planning officials attended Monday's Select Board meeting seeking guidance about the road.

While the town is still doing engineering work about how to fix the road and improve the area, Cooke urged immediate action to reduce further decay of the road until that can happen.

Board members suggested installing jersey barriers and a directional signal, and paving the trouble spots. Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said she would investigate.

It's a situation that's been years in the making. And the town's Lake Mansfield Improvement Task Force is still continuing its pursuit of a $2 million conceptual plan from 2016 that would repair the road and likely turn it into a one-way, and improve environmental protections to the lake. The task force had determined that rebuilding the two-way road would cost a fortune and dip the town into an environmental permitting nightmare. A baseline engineering study is underway, and nearly complete, said Town Planner Christopher Rembold.

It has been a complex maze of decision-making for the area, with a 29-acre pond popular for swimming, fishing, ice skating and gathering set at the edge of a residential neighborhood just west of the downtown. It is also adjacent to a 29-acre conservation forest with trails.

But the narrow, two-way road that also provides access to the lake and several private driveways, is also a link to two parts of town, and is seen as a shortcut, particularly to Fairview Hospital.

Yet the town has struggled to maintain a road that is so close to the lake. Rembold explained the "severe icing" in winter, and endless pothole patching that "doesn't last very long, but keeps it in safe, passable condition."

This is a threat to both the road and the lake, since the patching pops out and ends up in the lake, he said.

"Just filling potholes while waiting to make a larger decision is not healthy for the lake," Rembold said.

Department of Public Works Director Sean VanDeusen said the excessive use of salt there also isn't good. As a temporary fix, he suggested patching the potholes to level out the road, then adding a thick layer of pavement. All would be paid for by leftover DPW money, he added.

Dale Abrams, who lives a stone's throw from the boat launch, said targeted patching is more desirable to continue to keep speeds down.

"If we go with smooth paving, people will think they've got a nice, fast road," he said.

Abrams also urged the board to have patience for the long-term plan that may involve using some of the current road space as a recreational, walking, biking and fishing area. He said he had just seen three women fishing from the roadside, and cars driving by them slowly.

Christine Ward, chairwoman of the task force, reminded everyone that decisions about the road don't just affect people.

"An intact bank is also important to wildlife," she said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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