Work to begin on accident-prone Lenox intersection, with June 21 finish date eyed

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LENOX — The accident-prone intersection of the Route 7/20 bypass at Hubbard Street is scheduled to be permanently closed by June 21, with removal of the temporary barriers installed late last December following a fatal collision.

The project, announced by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation on Monday, is slated to begin on Wednesday and continue through June 21.

While the work continues, traffic will be restricted to one lane in each direction at the intersection between 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The MassDOT advisory cautioned motorists to reduce speed and expect delays. Furthermore, the advisory stated, all scheduled work is weather-dependent "and/or may be impacted due to an emergency situation."

The Hubbard Street crossover through four lanes of high speed traffic has been the scene of at least 30 accidents in the past decade, according to local and state police records, including multiple fatal collisions.

The most recent, last Dec. 11, claimed the life of well-known Pittsfield artist Wendy Rabinowitz. Friends, family, Lenox Select Board members, the town's Chief Administrative officer Christopher Ketchen, Police Chief Stephen E. O'Brien and state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, called on the state to shut down the dangerous bypass crossover.

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The result: Installation two weeks later of a temporary, 1,300-foot barrier along turning lanes on both sides of the divided highway, effectively sealing off the crossover median, and a plan for work this spring to remove the concrete barriers and eliminate the turning lanes, resulting in the same grassy median as the rest of the bypass between intersections.

MassDOT had hired contractor J.H. Maxymillian to install the barriers along the turning lanes — running 650 feet on both sides of the highway — and to also install signs and "end treatments" to prevent new barriers from becoming hazards.

The state also planned a full safety audit of intersections along the bypass.

The Maxymillian firm has a Berkshire County emergency services and districtwide road repair contract for MassDOT, including the portion of the MassPike within the county.

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


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