Long-awaited crosswalk signals to be placed in Dalton

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DALTON — By spending about eight grand, Dalton is poised to make what some see as a priceless investment.

Since a resident of River Run Apartments was struck by a vehicle and severely injured this spring, people in that Dalton neighborhood eagerly have awaited safety improvements at the crosswalk they use near the post office.

Hazards remain, neighbors say, on a stretch of Main Street where, despite small yellow signs indicating the presence of a crosswalk, traffic moves so fast that pedestrians have a hard time being noticed.

A resident who travels by motorized chair returned recently from the crosswalk with a harrowing near-miss story, says Mary A. Buben, site manager for River Run.

"The car stopped for him, but a pickup truck went around," Buben said. The truck passed without hitting the man, but not by much. "He said it was inches."

And another resident, a woman in her 80s, came back with a similar story of almost being struck as she crossed Main Street using a walker.

"Somebody had almost hit her," Buben said. "She came back really upset and crying."

The town has permission from the state to install a solar-powered crosswalk light that will flash a warning to motorists when activated by pedestrians.

Town Manager Kenneth Walto said he met last week with the town's highway superintendent about installing the new crosswalk lights.

Walto said he expects the devices to be in place by late summer or fall.

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"We just have to buy the signal and install it," he said.

The $8,000 cost does not include labor to put the lighting system in place. The new flashing crosswalk signs would be at least the second pair to go into use in Dalton. A similar warning system stands at the corner of East Housatonic Street and Route 8, near the entrance to the Nessacus Regional Middle School.

In late March, Sean A. Labonte of River Run Apartments was struck by a car in the Main Street crosswalk and thrown 90 feet. The driver who hit him has been charged with operating under the influence of alcohol.

Labonte was hospitalized for weeks with a traumatic brain injury, according to Buben, the site manager.

After that March 26 incident, residents of River Run signed a petition calling for new safety measures.

Buben has been pressing for safety improvements at the crosswalk. She believes that a full traffic light is needed, but indicated Monday she is willing to see whether a flashing signal can suffice.

"The sooner, the better. We're trying to save people's lives here," she said.

"You stand there and wait and wait and wait for somebody to stop," Buben said. "They're in a hurry to get nowhere. Hopefully, they'll decide to stop."

Walto said the need for a safer crosswalk is well established.

"That's a scary place," he said. "It's been in the works for a while."

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


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