With increasing frequency, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is turning to roundabouts to alleviate congestion at heavily trafficked intersections throughout the commonwealth where signals and signs fail to suffice.
The roundabout — the rotary’s smaller cousin — does keep traffic circulating. To the uninitiated drivers here in the Berkshires and elsewhere, however, the circular driving patterns are a do-si-do on wheels. Many would rather avoid them, until they master the dance.
As The Eagle’s Larry Parnass has reported in recent weeks, the Department of Transportation sees roundabouts as the primary way to unclog traffic congestion at certain Berkshire intersections. Seven are planned, under construction or are in operation up and down the county. Two are proposed for intersections in Pittsfield.
Another is recommended for Dalton at the intersection of Main and South streets. “We’re getting a lot of feedback that people don’t want it,” said Robert W. Bishop Jr., a Select Board member.
A roundabout proposed for the Five Corners intersection on Route 2 in South Williamstown also received a mixed reaction from the public, The Eagle has reported.
It does appear, however, that roundabouts do the job they are supposed to do after they’re in place. The roundabout placed at the intersection of Columbia and Friend streets in Adams in 2016 certainly has improved the flow of traffic there.
“Once people start to learn how to use them, they feel they are efficient at moving traffic,” Thomas Matuszko, the executive director of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, told The Eagle. “They’re safer. They eliminate those T-bone collisions and are designed to slow traffic down.”
While we have no issues with the preponderance of roundabouts that are planned for the Berkshires, the Department of Transportation should assure drivers that they are being placed in areas where they prevail as the most sensible and studied option. And for drivers whose knuckles turn white at the prospect of one, let logic, not fear, prevail.
But let’s entreat the Department of Transportation to also spend time, money and effort completing numerous lingering road repairs in the Berkshires. The one-lane bridge on Holmes Road in Pittsfield and the myriad aging spans that need fixing in places like Great Barrington come to mind. Berkshire drivers are eager to see these problems fixed before asking them to summon the courage to take on any new twists and turns in transportation.