WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The State Department of Transportation will seek input on Wednesday from residents about ways to improve Route 43 from Latham Street to the Five Corners intersection with Route 7.
The project — or potential projects — are in the very early design stage, and it is a good time to provide local feedback to the state agency, Town Manager Jason Hoch said on Monday.
"Unlike some of the meetings that we see, none of this is: 'We're at 90 percent design. What do you think?'" Hoch said. "It's very early in the process.
"To their credit, this meeting is outside the normal DOT regulatory design process. Normally, those [meetings] happen when the clock is ticking. The clock isn't ticking on this. This is conceptual."
And this will happen at 6 p.m. at the Williams Inn on Wednesday.
The MassDOT flyer promoting the event makes it clear that the agency is looking to both educate the public and learn from it.
"Public participation is encouraged at this meeting to help MassDOT identify design features that will be appropriate for the community and the characteristics of this local roadway," the flyer reads in part. "The goal of this project is to provide facilities that will safely accommodate all modes of transportation: motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians."
Like the recent project to improve the northern — Water Street — end of Route 43, the winding stretch of Green River Road is the responsibility of the commonwealth. So Hoch was not able to go into too much detail about the agency's thinking.
He does know that MassDOT has engaged a consulting engineer on the project.
And, like most Williamstown residents, he understands the issues involved with the scenic stretch of road well used by runners and cyclists.
In 2017, Hoch, working with the Williams College Council's Great Ideas Committee, conducted a townwide survey. Out of 624 respondents, more than half — 326 — reported running or biking on Route 43 at least three times per week.
Hoch said MassDOT is looking at addressing the road through two different funding streams. One would deal strictly with resurfacing. The other would take a more "complete streets" approach to the road, addressing things like shoulders and/or sidewalks, if appropriate.
Respondents who biked or jogged were asked to name their destination on Route 43, checking all the applicable cross roads that they hit in their routine; 364 reported going as far as Blair Road (just north of Mount Hope Park), but 236 said they routinely go as far as the Five Corners.
Only 1 percent of respondents reported feeling "not concerned" about their safety when they share the highway with motorists. Part of the concern stems from the narrow and sometimes virtually non-existent shoulder on the road.
"The challenge of all of this is it's narrow, there's slope, there are bridges, there are houses, there are trees," Hoch said. "It's not an easy task to slap out one solution, and no one has an interest in massively changing the corridor."
While the town has survey data and plenty of anecdotal evidence of fears about safety, to date there isn't data showing those fears have been realized. Hoch could not point to any numbers showing that accidents are more common on Route 43.
"A lot of it — which is good — is a lot of near miss data," he said. "I think anybody who used the road in any manner probably has a story to tell, whether it's a runner, a driver or a cyclist. We've all been in one or more of those moments."
Wednesday's meeting at the Williams Inn is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. The snow date is Thursday at the same time.
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Williamstown Fire District Opts to Cancel Street Light Plan
By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After hearing widespread concern about potential health impacts, the Prudential Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to rescind a decision it made this winter to have LED bulbs installed in the town's street lamps.
The committee, which oversees the Fire District, at its monthly meeting decided to back out of an agreement with National Grid to swap out the current incandescent fixtures with light-emitting diodes that have bulbs that burn at 4,000 degrees Kelvin.
The color temperature of the planned bulbs generated considerable discussion at the district's annual meeting in May and again at a recent meeting of the town's Planning Board, which concurrently is discussing a bylaw amendment aimed to reduce light pollution.
The issue also prompted a couple of dozen people to attend Wednesday afternoon's meeting at the fire station -- many attending their first ever Prudential Committee meeting.
After the committee voted 3-0 to reverse course on the bulbs, much of the crowd broke out into applause and left the meeting, but not before several of the attendees praised the decision.
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The Police Department Tuesday moved into its new station on Simonds Road.
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