The City Council questioned engineer Kevin Dandrade on the options with the street project.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council voted in favor of turning Atlantic and South Atlantic streets into one-way roads despite protests from neighbors.
The switch is part of a $608,000 federal grant to create safer walking ways to Silvo O. Conte Community School.
The project will add sidewalks, reducing the roadway, to South Atlantic and create a counter-clockwise traffic patterns to allow drop-off students easy access to the building and reduce the number of potential crashes.
Traffic will be allowed to flow south, toward the school, along the street between Linden and West Union.
"The one-way eliminates the bidirectional conflicts," Kevin Dandrade, an engineer with TEC, a firm consulting with the state on the project. "The goal is to eliminate as many conflicts as possible."
Dandrade says the traffic pattern will need some enforcement immediately as well as education so drivers know where to go. He expects the project to greatly increase safety for the 70 percent of students who either walk or ride a bicycle to the school.
However, neighbors have twice come to the council to fight the change, saying it would create traffic problems. The one-direction would direct traffic onto nearby roads such as Indian and Pacific streets.
"I am against putting a one-way sign in either the South or the North," said Linden Street resident Shirley Pierce-Robinson. "The way it is set up, it is going to create a bottleneck."
Ken Vanbramer, of Pacific Street, called the proposal "a bad idea" because there are many children who play on his street and the additional traffic would be "pointing" at them.
Last month, residents also voiced concerns with the one-direction road and the council called for further vetting of the project. On Tuesday, the council agreed to make the change to allow the project to go to bid. Dandrade said the project is 100 percent designed and ready to go out to bid.
"It may cause some inconvenience but it is safer," said Councilor at Large Churchill Cotton, who "wholeheartedly" supports the project. "We have to do something that reduces the amount of traffic going into the school."
Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said the road direction can always be changed in the future and hoped that "we can evaluate this very soon," while Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi said it "is a start."
But not all of the council was on board. Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said she doesn't believe no-parking signs designed to keep traffic moving will work, creating yet another problem. She asked for the project to be reviewed further to see if there was something else that can be done to solve the problem in a less intrusive way.
"This is a drastic change to the neighborhood," she said.
But in the end of discussion, Mazzeo joined the rest of the council in a unanimous vote in favor of turning the roads one-way. The council also voted for about a dozen temporary easements to access properties in the neighborhood for the installation of a new sidewalk. Those property owners will be reimbursed for their time and the access is only for the length of project.