In Pittsfield, West Side residents push for traffic safety

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PITTSFIELD — Kathy Rivera said her teenage granddaughter was crossing the street just outside her house, at the corner of Robbins Avenue and Prospect Street, when she was hit by a car.

She said her granddaughter is one of three people she has seen hit at the intersection in recent years. None was seriously injured, she said, but she worries that the neighborhood children might not be so lucky.

"I just want to keep kids safe," she said.

Rivera said she and her neighbors filed a petition with Ward 6 Councilor John Krol to put a four-way stop sign at the intersection, joining the West Side Neighborhood Initiative in a push to increase traffic safety in the West Side. The city's Traffic Commission will consider the measure at 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 203 at City Hall.

Last year, members of the neighborhood petitioned the city for traffic-calming measures at another nearby intersection, Robbins Avenue and Linden Street, after cyclist Gerald Scott was killed in front of the Christian Center. Krol filed a petition nearly a year ago on their behalf, and the commission referred it to Public Services Commissioner David Turocy.

But so far, organizers with the West Side Neighborhood Initiative are dissatisfied with the lack of a result, and some promised to attend Thursday's meeting to reiterate their concerns.

Linda Kelley, chairwoman of the initiative, told The Eagle that people use Linden Street as a throughway between Onota and North streets.

The city needs to do something to protect residents, she said.

"It's not OK in a neighborhood with kids," Kelley said. "It's just not OK to treat people like this when it's such an easy fix. We would never have North Street looking like this."

She said she finds it hard to believe that City Hall would be slow to respond if these issues were happening elsewhere in Pittsfield.

"We are not going to accept being the second-class neighborhood," she said.

But Turocy said that's not the case.

"I don't play any favorites throughout the city," Turocy said Tuesday.

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In response to the request, he said he put up signs alerting passers-by to children around the area of Robbins and Linden. And though the intersection's crosswalks are so faded that they barely are visible, the contractor is scheduled to paint it, as well as many others throughout the city, by Sept. 11.

"I suspect he'll get to it in the pretty near future," he said.

Turocy said he considered sending city staff to paint the crosswalk, but realized that wasn't possible, because of equipment issues.

Krol said the signs that Turocy put up aren't as visible as he would like, and he was disappointed to see the crosswalks still haven't been painted "at this time of year."

"I'm incredibly frustrated by the lack of timeliness," he said.

While Krol said he knows there are many crosswalks in Pittsfield in need of painting, the commission identified this one as needing particular attention. The fact that neighborhood residents still feel neglected, he said, "doesn't help with that perception" that the West Side gets left behind.

Turocy said speed enforcement is the answer to the neighborhood's concerns.

"Enforcement — I think that's the bottom line," he said.

Turocy said he's not in favor of putting a four-way stop sign at Robbins and Prospect, because it doesn't meet the standard criteria. While Krol is in favor of more four-way stops in the West Side, Turocy said federal standards stipulate that four-way stops not be used for traffic calming. He said they are used to delineate right of way in intersections with roads that have traffic equally distributed between them. If traffic flows more heavily along one of the roads, he said, the stop signs will lose their integrity and people will blow through them.

"If it doesn't make sense, it's not going to work and it could be more dangerous than what we have now," he said.

Meantime, Kathy Rivera and her husband, Edward Rivera, say anything would help. The intersection has barely visible lines painted and no crosswalks. Just around the corner sits a basketball hoop they say draws a hearty crew of kids on most days.

"Would they just put that speed sign here?" Kathy Rivera asked, referring to the flashing roadside stand seen elsewhere in the city.

That would be a good idea, her husband said, because "I don't think they're going to put a cop here 24/7."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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