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Big Musical Numbers


Avoiding patch spots along Route 183 (West Street) in Lenox last week.

I love facts and figures and stick them into articles where ever I can: size, volume, cost, width, pressure, number. But even I was a little taken aback by the numbers offered up by Tanglewood last week.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home is very involved in the road reconstruction project along Route 183 and for good reason: Some 350,000 visit the campus during its eight-week opening during summer. That's a lot traffic on 183, better known as West Street to the natives.

The real stunner was the economic impact for the county, some $60 million, an amount no doubt reported broadly elsewhere when I wasn't looking. (Oh, here it is.) About half of that was through visitor spending — hotels, motels, restaurants, shopping, gas.

The total annual impact of nonprofits is nearly $2 billion, with Tanglewood responsible for nearly a third of that. Rep. Smitty Pignatelli wasn't kidding when he called it the "economic engine of the Berkshires."

It also, apparently, is major attraction in luring new residents. Town Manager Gregory Federspiel said second-home owners make up a third of the population, and most of those emigrants fleeing the dangers of the Big Apple after 9/11.

Which way to go?

The trend for summer Berkshire living (at a larger scale than the old money barons who transformed South County into a getaway a century ago and then left their mansions for those of lesser means to enjoy, including at Tanglewood) has actually led to a drop in hotel and restaurant revenue — everyone was eating at home.

But they're still driving down a well-beaten path to Tanglewood, one that could definitely use some fixing. The Boston Globe ran an interesting story two years ago on the automobile and Tanglewood that noted traffic jumped 28 percent from 1990 to 2004. Hardly news to natives.

Hopefully, next two years of digging up West Street and realigning the intersection with Route 7 will go smoothly for both town and Tanglewood.

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