DOT to close perilous Lenox intersection next week

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LENOX — It will take nearly a quarter-mile of barriers to remove hazards from the highway crossover where a Pittsfield woman died last week.

The state Department of Transportation said Thursday it will install 1,300 feet of barrier on Route 7/20 to change how the four-lane highway connects with Hubbard Street. The work will start Dec. 27 and take up to two days, a DOT spokeswoman said.

Once initial work is done, the department will take other measures related to safety on the busy road.

The department next week will place the barriers along turning lanes that run on both sides of the divided highway, effectively sealing off use of a median to cross.

The junction has been the scene of as many as 30 accidents in the past decade, including multiple fatal crashes.

On Wednesday, friends and family of the late Wendy Rabinowitz, along with concerned area residents, asked the Lenox Select Board to intervene. Rabinowitz died after her car was hit by a truck as she tried to cross the highway. The board voted unanimously to write to the DOT to ask that the median area be closed to vehicles seeking to cross the highway.

The DOT said it has hired contractor J.H. Maxymillian to install the barriers along the turning lanes — running 650 feet in length on both sides of the highway — and to also install signs and "end treatments."

End treatments are placed to prevent new barriers from themselves becoming hazards.

The two lines of barriers will extend far enough to effectively close the crossover area. The project will cost about $43,000.

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Traffic going east or west on Hubbard currently can cross Route 7/20. But the speeds of north-south traffic on the highway, as well as curves and limited visibility, have made the crossing hazardous.

The start of the installations could be delayed by weather, the DOT spokeswoman said.

After that work is done, the department will conduct what it termed a "safety evaluation" of intersections above and below Hubbard Street.

And in the spring, the DOT will conduct a full safety audit of travel on the highway, following up on the impact of changes.

That move follows a call from Lenox officials for a wider review of safety along the highway.

"We also want to ensure we are not transferring safety issues elsewhere," said Judith Riley, a spokeswoman for the department. "So we need to take a holistic approach to improving safety overall in the area."

Though crossover traffic will be halted as of next week, people coming off Hubbard will still be able to turn right and merge with traffic going either north or south. But drivers will no longer be able to cross the median area and turn left to join the flow of traffic on the far two lanes of the four-lane highway.

One of the Lenox Select Board members who called for the intersection changes is Neal Maxymillian. He is also the president of the company hired by the DOT for the project.

The DOT said that the contractor holds what's known as the active District Wide Road Repair contract. That means it is mustered into action for projects like this, regardless of their location in the region.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com, at @larryparnass on Twitter and 413-496-6214.


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