Change coming to historic Dalton intersection (copy) (copy)

The Dalton Select Board decided Monday, in a 3-2 vote, to oppose a state Department of Transportation plan to convert the intersection of Main and South streets in Dalton into a roundabout. The DOT has another option of making simpler intersection improvements. The board now is on record preferring that to a roundabout. The $1.9 million conversion would not begin until 2024.

In a 3-2 vote, Dalton’s Select Board sided Monday with residents who say they do not want the state Department of Transportation to transform a busy intersection into a roundabout.

What the vote means: Perhaps not much. The DOT has full say over design changes to the intersection of Main and South streets and nearby West Housatonic Street.

• The motion that passed said the board opposes the roundabout that could be built by the DOT, starting in spring 2024. Instead, it wants the DOT to go with the second of its options: improving the geometry of the intersection, as well as the timing of traffic lights.

• Before voting, the board accepted a report from the town’s Traffic Commission, which decided Sept. 21 to support more minor intersection work, not the roundabout.

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• Voting yes: Chair Joe Diver, Robert W. Bishop Jr. and Marc Strout. Voting no: Daniel Esko and John Boyle.

Verbatim: “For me, it’s a no-brainer. … A majority of residents is saying they don’t want it,” said Strout. He estimated that residents are 10-1 against the roundabout.

• “I feel it’s somewhat premature to take a formal position,” Esko said, noting that the DOT will take public comment later.

Why the board did this: For more than a year, officials have pushed back on the $1.9 million DOT proposal, which would be paid for by the state, not Dalton. Officials and residents have said they don’t see the need for an overhaul. Others are worried about congestion during the project. The road handles 15,570 vehicles a day.

• Before Monday’s vote, Diver upheld a promise to read comments from residents into the record. Only one of nearly 20 messages from residents backed the roundabout.

Inside the timing: The Select Board just held a special meeting, at which it solicited public comment. The project, though, remains many months from the DOT’s next step, which will be to hold a public hearing at the point at which the design is 25 percent complete.

The night’s no votes: Esko said he felt called to speak for residents who say they think the roundabout will improve road safety, as the DOT’s figures suggest. Boyle spoke of speeders who make the intersection a hazard.

• A DOT official came to the meeting to give a final pitch, saying the accidents that take place are growing more expensive: “The roadway is not meeting the needs of all users.”

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.

Investigations editor

Larry Parnass joined The Eagle in 2016 from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, where he was editor in chief. His freelance work has appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, CommonWealth Magazine and with the Reuters news service.