Study: Roundabout remains among several solutions to Stockbridge traffic woes

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STOCKBRIDGE — A road safety audit commissioned by the town from the state Department of Transportation to ease downtown traffic safety issues includes consideration of a controversial roundabout for the notorious Red Lion intersection.

MassDOT acknowledged that, while the safety payoff of a roundabout is high, it would be an expensive, long-term project, and the state specified that town has sole jurisdiction over that potential alteration at the troublesome, accident-prone intersection.

But the state agency also recommended a series of low-cost steps, including restoring four-way stop signs or converting to two-way stop controls at the convergence of Route 7 (South Street), Route 102 (Main Street) and Pine Street, the scene of multiple crashes caused by driver uncertainty and lack of guidance on who has priority to proceed.

The intersection currently has stop signs for northbound, eastbound and southbound traffic, but westbound motorists, including those making a left to continue southbound toward Great Barrington on the state highway, have the right of way.

The state agency also studied the intersection of routes 7 and 102, and Vine Street at the firehouse, just east of the compact downtown business district. It suggested converting it to a "T" intersection — a high safety payoff, but an expensive, long-term solution. Jurisdiction is jointly held between MassDOT and the town.

"The road safety audit has brought a lot of sanity to what we should do with transportation and downtown," Select Board Chairman Terry Flynn said at a recent meeting, which included the Planning Board and the Finance Committee. "It's a very usable tool and should help us work in conjunction with [traffic engineering firm] VHB so we can get something done."

Although MassDOT concluded the study at no cost on Sept. 17, it was requested in conjunction with the $132,000 VHB engineering contract approved by annual town meeting voters last May aimed at a plan to enhance downtown traffic safety.

"The audit still listed a roundabout as one of the possibilities," Flynn said. "But if that can be resolved by the town at a public discussion and we decide not to opt for a roundabout, we're taking the engineering load off the VHB contract."

"We can take certain low-cost steps in the meantime," said Select Board member Roxanne McCaffrey. She was responding to a query from Finance Committee member Jim Balfanz on when the Select Board would act on the low-cost recommendations and whether there would be public input.

Among the key findings of the 44-page state study's final draft prepared by McMahon Transportation Planners and Engineers of Westfield, which is posted on the town website (townofstockbridge.com):

— The Red Lion intersection is among the top 5 percent of "crash clusters" within the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's area.

— From 2014 to this year, 34 crashes were reported at the Main, Pine and South street intersections by the inn, with 21 percent resulting in injuries. About 44 percent were rear-end crashes, and peak time for accidents was noon to 2 p.m.

— During the same five-period period, there were 25 accidents at the Main, Vine and East street intersection by the firehouse, where 16 percent caused injuries, 68 percent were rear-end crashes, and peak time for accidents was on weekdays between 6 and 8 a.m.

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Some of the alternatives MassDOT offered for the Red Lion intersection:

— Consider reconstruction of the intersection as a roundabout.

— Convert to four-way stop control to reduce driver confusion, with evaluation to assess the effects on traffic flow.

— Convert to two-way northbound and southbound stop control, allowing free flow of traffic on Main Street in both directions, also to reduce driver confusion, along with a review to assess the impact on traffic flow.

— Evaluate the posted 30 mph speed limit, which might be to high, reconsider speed enforcement activities on Main Street, and consider features, such as raised crosswalks, to encourage slower speeds.

— Install line extension pavement markings, such as dotted lines, across the intersection and reevaluate stop-line locations.

— Reevaluate signs at and ahead of the intersection and consider installing additional regulatory signage.

Suggestions for safety enhancements at the Main, Vine and East street intersections by the firehouse include:

— Realigning East Street (Route 102) to a "T" intersection with Main and/or realigning Vine to intersect East Street to the north to eliminate the unclear intersection with Main Street and avoid use of the fire station as a shortcut.

— Evaluate pavement markings, reevaluate existing advance warning signs on East Street and consider potential advance warning signs on the Main Street approaches.

— Evaluate the existing 30 mph speed limit, which might be too high, and consider permanent speed feedback signs to encourage slowdowns.

The MassDOT audit team included Interim Town Administrator Mark Webber, Department of Public Works Commissioner Len Tisdale, Police Chief Darrell Fennelly, Fire Chief Vincent Garofoli, Emergency Management Director Chris Marsden, Select Board Chairman Terry Flynn with members Chuck Cardillo and Roxanne McCaffrey, two McMahon Associates members, four MassDOT officials, and Clete Kus of the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

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


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