LENOX -- At the request of the Select Board, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli has urged the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to expedite action to make safer the accident-plagued Route 7 & 20 and Holmes Road intersection following 17 mishaps since the beginning of 2009, including two this month.
Selectmen also directed Town Manager Gregory Federspiel to contact the state agency to support Police Chief Stephen O'Brien's effort to win state approval for redesigned signals that would prevent southbound Route 7 & 20 drivers from turning left onto Holmes Road except when permitted by a left-turn directional arrow. Route 7 & 20 is also known as Pittsfield Road.
Until now, although there is a directional signal that stops all traffic to permit the turns, motorists also have been allowed to make a left on green after yielding to oncoming northbound drivers. On Friday, state DOT engineers installed additional signs warning drivers that they cannot make the turn on green unless they yield.
O'Brien said on Friday that he has provided complete documentation to the state agency on the series of accidents at the site.
Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, told The Eagle that he has been in contact with Lenox-based DOT Region 1 District Highway Director Peter Niles and expects a solution "probably sooner rather than later" that combines an improved signal system utilizing new technology with an "educational component" to alert motorists.
He pointed out that DOT "can't legislate common sense," citing Tuesday evening's crash caused by a drunk driver that injured four people, one seriously. The driver, Michael T. Boyle, 19, of West Street in Pittsfield, was arrested on a series of charges including, most seriously, driving while intoxicated resulting in serious injury, potentially a felony. He was released Thursday following a hearing at Southern Berkshire District Court pending his next court date.
"You can't predict human error," said Pignatelli, quoting former District 1 Highway Director Ross Dindio.
Pignatelli will present the Selectmen with an update at their next meeting on Dec 12.
"I am hopeful that Mass DOT will come up with a solution prior to that meeting," he said. "I know for a fact they're working on it right now."
A state DOT spokesman confirmed earlier this week that the agency is working with O'Brien to evaluate the accident data and offer a remedy.
Pignatelli also proposed consideration of improved lighting at the troubled intersection to help motorists navigate the turns onto Holmes Road. "Signalization, illumination and education are the three things that are really important for this next step," he said.
According to state studies, the intersection is one of the most heavily traveled in the county with a year-round average of 26,000 vehicles passing through each day -- more in the summer, fewer in the winter.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto