LENOX — The town has hired a traffic engineering firm to collect and analyze information this week that could lead to safety upgrades at a key, accident-prone local intersection.
The decision to study traffic patterns, volume and flow at Housatonic and East streets follows the fatal accident on May 5 after a bicyclist steered through the middle of the intersection into the path of an approaching delivery truck, according to the Lenox Police investigation based on multiple witness accounts.
Benjamin Kaplan, 29, of Larchmont, N.Y., died of his injuries four days after he was transferred from Berkshire Medical Center to North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, N.Y.
The traffic study will be conducted by professional engineer Kien Y. Ho, a vice president of Beta Group, based in Norwood near Boston. The company’s services to cities and towns include transportation and traffic engineering. Ho’s specializations include traffic studies and signal design for urban and residential areas.
The results of Beta’s analysis, including any recommendations for one of the town’s busiest residential traffic intersections, will be studied by the Select Board, several department heads and other town officials, said Chief Administrative Officer Christopher Ketchen. The study is funded by the Department of Public Works, he told The Eagle on Monday.
Describing the collision as awful and tragic, Ketchen said that “the compounded heartbreak of this accident is impacting so many lives.”
Beta contracted with Innovative Data LLC of Belchertown to install road tubes and cameras to count the number of vehicles passing the intersection near Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, as well as speed and turning data. Based on that information being gathered this week as well as accident history compiled by Lenox Police and the state Department of Transportation, Beta will analyze the data and potentially offer recommendations for study by town officials.
Enhanced signage and possible speed-limit reductions would involve consultation with the DOT, though local towns can install yellow precautionary, advisory signs on their own.
Potential solutions offered by residents in communications to The Eagle range from four-way stop signs to replace the two-way stops on East Street’s southbound and northbound traffic, an overhead blinker flashing red for East Street and yellow for Housatonic Street, or a full red-green light traffic signal.
But four-way stop signs could challenge motorists to figure out who has the right-of-way if traffic is waiting on all four sides. Frequent truck traffic heading to and from the Lenox Dale and Lee industrial sectors may pose an additional complication.
The blinker solution has some advocates because the installation of an overhead warning signal at the intersection of Swamp and Lenox roads in Richmond dramatically reduced the high rate of collisions there.
Brianna Lamke, of Pittsfield, a witness to the accident that claimed Kaplan’s life, told Lenox Police she “could not imagine any scenario where the truck driver could have avoided the collision. He slammed on his brakes before the bicyclist even hit the intersection and was pulled over and out of his truck before anyone else was.”
In an Eagle commentary published last week, she urged local officials to employ a four-way stop sign at the East and Housatonic intersection. She also relayed her recommendation to multiple agencies, including Ketchen, the chief administrative officer for Lenox and Lee.
“If change does not come to fruition, I promise it will not be for lack of trying,” Lamke wrote.
She cited “a great and urgent need to modify the roadway and require a four-point stop,” she stated in her message to public agencies and town leaders. “There are many of us in the community that are willing to step in where our help is needed.”