PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities David Turocy has put a halt on a $5.4 million project to improve the traffic areas around Berkshire Medical Center.
Turocy said on Tuesday that the design ultimately provided only minor improvements and did not improve transit time. The commissioner would rather delay the project for now in hopes to come up with a better design.
"At the end of the day, I have a project that improved access to BMC, reduced some of the traffic through there, added two bike lanes for two blocks, but didn't do much to reduce transit time at a cost of $5 million. As much as I like to make whatever improvements I can, that price tag just seems way out of reach for the benefit we would see," he said.
The project has been in the works for more than four years. Back in 2004, the city allocated some $172,000 toward the design work. That work was matched by the state to the tune of $349,997.
The concept was to align Charles Street with Springside Avenue, eliminate the fork dividing North and First Streets so all traffic continues down First Street, re-do the Springside Avenue intersection, and change the intersections of Charles and Wahconah. As it is now, there are multiple lights on North Street in close proximity.
In 2016, the design still hadn't progressed enough to use that year's federal funding allocation through the local Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the cost estimates then had increased to close to $7.3 million. It was delayed until 2018.
And as of Tuesday, that project is on hold indefinitely.
"We were not able to come up with what I felt was a worthwhile design. We have some possibilities that I am continuing to look at so we are keeping on it, but there is no way we'd be ready for next year," Turocy told the MPO.
He cited difficulties with the historic registrar and the need for land takings that weren't supported in Boston as adding to the complication.
"The area around BMC is very constrained and restricted. There just isn't a lot of geography to make improvements. The idea of trying to decrease transit time through there was very difficult," he said.
Turocy said he met with Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials, who provided new ideas. But he said the absolute earliest he expects construction to be able to move forward is 2020.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization has just started the process of earmarking projects for the period between 2019 and 2023. That project, estimated at $5.4 million, is penciled in for construction in the federal fiscal 2021.
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