Pittsfield Finance Committee Approves BMC Intersections Design Funds

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Council Vice President Christopher Connell said he'd rather have traffic diverted up to North Street instead of First Street.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Finance Committee gave its nod of approval to using some $90,000 to start redesigning the intersections near Berkshire Medical Center.

The money, from state-allocated Chapter 90 funds designated for road projects, will be the city's match to $350,000 in Federal Highway Administration funds — disbursed through the state Department of Transportation — to start the design work.

The Phase 1 design will re-examine the area, cite environmental and property impacts, update traffic counts and craft an outline of the project.

"Phase 1 is really to flesh it out so we have a better understanding," said Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood.

After the 25 percent design is completed, Federal Highway needs to approve it before releasing the next round of funding.

The second phase of the design will take that outline and fill in all of the details, resulting in construction plans. The second phase is expected to cost the city about $82,000 and Federal Highway will pay $327,000.

Then another round of funding will begin construction. Collingwood said he estimates construction to start in 2017 for $6 million. The construction funds won't need a city match, he said, but likely the plans will include streetscape elements that federal and state officials won't pay for, so there will be some cost to the city.

"It's a large project, so we'll keep the council up to date," he said.

Engineer Jon Dietrich, from Fuss & O'Neill, outlined the plans to council subcommittee Wednesday night. The plans call for repositioning the Charles Street and North Street intersection to align with Springside Avenue; directing traffic to the Tyler Street intersection; new signalization at all intersections near the hospital; and upgrades to the roads and sidewalks.

In the process, two sections of city roads will be discontinued — the section of North Street that breaks off from First Street directly in front of the hospital and a section of Charles Street, which will be repositioned.

"What we want to improve as well is pedestrian safety," he said.

Engineer Jon Dietrich explained the project to the Finance Committee on Wednesday night.

This project was cited as a need eight years ago, Dietrich said, when the City Council approved a circulation study.

That study's recommendation for changes and various other capital projects put it on the back burner.

Now, the state has agreed to a contract for the design and the city has the Chapter 90 funds ready for it.

"This project is finally coming to fruition with design," Dietrich said.

The state Chapter 90 funding is restrictive in what it can be used for, Collingwood said, and since this project is approved, he is using those funds instead of the city's capital funds.

Some subcommittee members didn't like how traffic was being continued down First Street instead of bring directed to the more commercial North Street.

But Dietrich said the circulation study showed that doing that would create more traffic backups for northbound traffic.

"We did look at that and this was the recommendation that came out of it," he said, adding that that study looked out 20 years.

City Council Vice President Christopher Connell urged Collingwood to try to sell the abandoned streets instead of just giving them away.

Tags: BMC,   Chapter 90,   federal highway,   intersection,   road project,   

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