Charles Street is eyed to be realigned with Springside Avenue, eliminating the two light systems currently in place.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state has allocated funds to redesign the intersections near Berkshire Medical Center — aligning Charles Street with Springside Avenue and eliminating the fork dividing traffic from North Street and First Streets.
"This is a very involved design," Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood said on Wednesday. "The overall idea is to improve traffic."
Collingwood said the state Department of Transportation has allocated funds to redesign the intersection in two phases. The first phase would bring design to 25 percent completion, which includes identifying land takings, easements and environmental concerns.
The City Council sent the acceptance of that grant — $349,997 — to the Finance Committee on Tuesday before approval. The city will be using the state Chapter 90 funds allocated to match 20 percent of that work. From there, a later allocation will bring the design to full completion.
"The city has paid for the majority of the survey work already," Collingwood said.
In the initial vision, land would be taken from the hospital on the North side of Charles Street, and the road would be repositioned to align with Springside Avenue. Traffic on North Street would be realigned so that all traffic goes to the First and Tyler Street intersections. The city would then abandon the left-behind section of Charles Street and the section of North Street. The intersection of Wahconah and Charles Street would also be revamped with new traffic signals.
"We're probably looking the summer of 2016 as the earliest this could happen. This is a large project," Collingwood said.
In total the project is currently estimated at $6 million, the majority of it coming from MassDOT allocations. The local Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets priorities for local MassDOT projects has identified it as one of the top projects pending and allocated funds for 2015. The state includes economic development as part of the criteria and BMC is the city's largest employer.
However, the city had not approved the funds as early as expects — and still hasn't — so the MPO will have to move that project to another year.
Commissioner Collingwood requested the City Council to accept the state funds to design the project on Tuesday night.
The $6 million figure is a rough estimate but Collingwood said it is a fairly well-vetted one. An intersection project with signalization aspects tend to run about a million without any road realignments, he said.
"It adds up quick. The Onota and West Union Street intersection was a relatively simple one and it was close to $400,000," he said.
But, with the state chipping in the majority of the cost for this project, Collingwood says taxpayers are "getting a bang for their buck" by using the city's Chapter 90 allocation on it.
On Tuesday, the City Council made it clear that this project is unrelated to the streetscape project, which the state has already committed to continuing. The next phase of that project will renovate North Street from Madison Avenue to the Wahconah Street intersection.
Collingwood said the design will incorporate aspects of that project but the two are not related.
The signalization project was cited years ago in a circulation study as a need. The design will focus on improving traffic congestion in that area — particularly by eliminating the two-light system currently in place.
"I see that circulation study as a capital improvement plan for me," Collingwood said.
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