No getting around it: Roadwork in South County is upon us

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LENOX — Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of tourist season in the Berkshires, is already causing traffic backups at traditional chokepoints in Great Barrington and Stockbridge.

The advent of construction season, delayed by bad weather until recently, is making road navigation even more challenging. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has several major, shovel-ready South County projects in the pipeline for the season.

Repaving of a 5-mile stretch of Route 7 from the southern portion of Lenox through a stretch in Lee and into Stockbridge is set to begin with preliminary work Wednesday.

The nearly $2.7 million state-funded project begins just south of the intersection with Route 20 in Lenox and proceeds south through the west end of Lee to the intersection of Route 7 and Route 102 by the firehouse in Stockbridge.

According to MassDOT, the paving, resurfacing, safety improvements and upgrades involve an extensive punch list with a target date of June 2020 for completion:

- Micro-mill the existing road surface; mill and resurface side road approaches;

- Adjust and rebuild drainage structures as required;

- Repair defective structures within the road as required;

- Remove drainage sediments from structures, pipes and ends;

- Rebuild or repave driveway aprons as required;

- New slotted pavement markers;

- New recessed pavement markings;

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- Remove and reset guardrail as required;

- Remove and reset or replace curbing as required;

- Loam and seed areas disturbed by construction operations;

- Install new guardrail delineators.

In Lenox, a 1.5-mile stretch of Walker Street (Route 183) from the Route 7/20 bypass to the center of Lenox Dale is set for reconstruction and widening beginning next month. The contractor is JH Maxymillian.

The $6.9 million state project is scheduled for completion two years from now. It includes road and sidewalk rebuilding and a street widening to a uniform 32 feet from the current 24 to 28 feet. The new width includes two 11-foot travel lanes and two 5-foot shoulders for bicyclists.

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A MassDOT announcement said the project involves sidewalk work to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The project involves reconstructing existing sidewalks and building new ones where none exist. Signalized pedestrian crossings will be installed at Route 7/ 20.

Also, the project includes construction of sidewalks along the north side of Walker Street from Route 7/20 west to the first driveway of the Kimball Farms Life Care community. This section of road also will be milled and paved.

Other projects highlights include:

- Sightline improvements at Walker Street intersections with Galway Court, East Street and Blantyre Road;

- Drainage repairs and upgrades targeting subsurface and surface water runoff;

- Replacement of a culvert over Woods Crossing Brook;

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- New traffic signs and markings.

In addition, a $600,000 town-funded replacement of sewer and water pipes along Walker Street will accompany the state's rebuild, which includes replacement of deteriorating and inadequate sections of the Lenox Dale drainage, sewer and water systems.

Date to come

Still awaited is a start date for a pedestrian and golf cart tunnel under Route 20 (Lee Road) at the Cranwell Spa and Golf Resort site, where major reconstruction is underway for conversion into a Hyatt Miraval high-end hotel and wellness destination.

Also in Lenox, a downtown build-out of slightly raised crosswalks and bump-outs is causing brief traffic delays on Main Street.

The work, funded by a $323,000 Complete Streets state grant, is aimed at enhancing pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the busy center of the historic village.

When completed in several weeks, the project will yield three raised, paved crosswalks on Main Street and another across Old Stockbridge Road just west of Town Hall. Each will have grass-filled curb extensions with granite edging to help pedestrians see approaching vehicles, while also enhancing drivers' ability to spot them.

The new crosswalks will extend across Main Street at the town library, the post office at the Village Center plaza and at Franklin Street connecting two Berkshire Regional Transit Authority bus stops, where there will be a flashing signal activated by pedestrians. New signage will alert motorists to the raised crosswalks.

Department of Public Works snowplows will be able to navigate smoothly because the crosswalks will be no more than 3 inches high and gently sloped, according to Public Works Superintendent William Gop.

The state grant was written by Land Use Director and Town Planner Gwen Miller.

"Main Street is going to look a little different," Select Board Chairman Edward Lane has said, "but it's going to be very, very safe, and that's the entire goal. We've been dodging bullets for many years as far as people crossing Main Street, so it will be worth every penny."

Clarence Fanto can be reached at, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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