Pittsfield Residents Petition for Brown Street Road Work

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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Councilor Lisa Tully, listening to Councilor Kevin Morandi, said Brown Street is already set for a guard rail.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Despite its status as an "unaccepted street," road improvements have been recommended for a problematic portion of Brown Street, a dead-end street bordering Springside Park that some neighbors say has become dangerous.
The City Council's Committee on Public Works voted unanimously on Monday to refer some desired improvements to the public works commissioner, who they say has already begun taking action toward remedying the issues.
"Right now it's a big mess," said Greg Martinez, who brought forth the petition, signed by six Brown Street residents.    Martinez believes the conditions on the northernmost portion of Brown Street have become hazardous, particularly in inclement weather.
This unpaved stretch from 223 to 240 Brown St., where Martinez lives, consists of dirt and gravel roadway that becomes a muddy disaster for cars and delivery trucks heading to the half-dozen houses located in this segment.
Additionally, petitioners are concerned with a potentially dangerous embankment on the west side of the street, just across from homes whose driveways occupy a steep slope.  
According to Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully, whose ward this portion of Brown Street falls in, investigation by Commissioner Bruce Collingwood has already lead to a determination to add a guard rail along the area in question, an upgrade that will be installed as soon as feasible.
"As soon as a contractor can put it up, it will be put up," Tully, who sits on the Public Works committee, told the Brown Street residents. 
Paving is more complicated, because of the "unaccepted" nature of the street.  Under Mass. General Law Chapter 90, only accepted streets that the city owns are eligible for the state highway funds which provide for most of the city's road repairs.  
Maintenance of these ways by the city is traditionally limited to plowing, sanding, and chip-sealing, a cheaper quick-fix type of paving that typically only lasts three to five years and requires frequent repair. In some cases, chip sealing has eventually lead to even more issues, for example on Thomas Island Road where repeated chip sealing has raised the level of the road significantly, causing additional problems.
"It's a cheap alternative to actually paving a dirt road," Councilor Nicholas Caccamo explained to the petitioners, "But until such time as the rest of the street is accepted by the city, you may not be able to get actual paving treatment.  For the time being, that might be the best we can do for upper Brown Street."
The city of Pittsfield has approximately twenty miles of unaccepted street, areas of land where homes were developed but construction or utility work did not meet the city's standards.  In decades past, many developers undertook work that was not consistent throughout, and in some cases the city only accepted sections that were up to code.  This failure to hold developers to building standards by officials of past eras has repeatedly lead to quandaries for current city government in recent years.  
With the cost to the city of bringing all these street segments up to standards of accepted streets estimated at well over $20 million, no simple solution seems to be in sight.  For the time being, the segment of Brown Street will be added to the list of streets slated for chip sealing, work which is done based on availability of funds and in order of the priority as a public safety need.  
"According to Commissioner Collingwood, the mayor is very concerned about Brown Street," offered Councilor Anthony Simonelli, who chairs the subcommittee.

Tags: public works,   road work,   

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