NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The dangerous entrance to the Northern Berkshire Family YMCA is going to be reconstructed to make it safer for children walking to school.
The $622,000 project is part of the state Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School initiative and is being funded through the Transportation Improvement Program.
It will include revamping the steep entrance on the west side of Brayton School and the YMCA and adding in sidewalks and other improvements.
The public schools outreach coordinator Emily Schiavoni said the school district and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition have been partners in the program since 2016. The two entities applied in 2019 to the Safe Routes to Schools program for Brayton and were accepted.
Schiavoni, who has been coordinating the effort, said MassDOT will lead the design and be responsible for funding and the city will be responsible for coordinating and funding permanent and temporary leases for construction.
"The main objective is to address the need for a safe place for students and families to cross Brickyard Court as students walk to and from Brayton Elementary School," she told the School Committee on Tuesday.
There have been no sidewalks or legal crosswalks for children walking from Brayton Hill Apartments to the elementary school.
Pedestrians have been cutting over private land and across Brickyard Court to get to the steep driveway into the parking lot of the YMCA, which is attached to the school. A crosswalk was painted on Brickyard Court at one point but removed a couple years ago because it was not in compliance — it ran from a curb to a curb. There is also a visibility factor because of the incline of both the road and the driveway.
Design consultant Kevin Dandrade of TEC Inc. said the process of surveying and design has taken about seven months to this point.
"This is an introductory meeting really tonight," he said. "But we'll have an official design public hearing and work through other details in response to public comments in hopes that we can get this out to the street to construction as soon as possible."
He anticipated a public hearing in April on the 25 percent design, finalization of plans to 100 percent, the process to begin on easements and then advertising for construction.
"It likely wouldn't start, just because of the timing of contracts, until the spring or summer of 2023," Dandrade said. "This is not a long duration construction contract as you'll see, but it's really completing some of the gaps in the infrastructure that exists today."
The project would slightly realign the intersection of Brayton Hill Terrace and Brickyard Court and add sidewalks along both sides of Brickyard and Brayton Hill leading up to the intersection.
The driveway would come in farther to the back of the parking lot at less of a grade and crosswalks will be added to both sides to lead walkers along the front of the YMCA.
"We've also identified the opportunity to investigate other things that weren't necessarily in the school's application but things that we saw as other enhancements between that rear driveway and the route to traffic sites," Dandrade said.
These included moving a crosswalk at the bottom of Brayton Hill farther back from the school driveway as a safety measure, removing an unused bus stop, updating the traffic lights on State Road with pedestrian pushbuttons and adding new sidewalks and crosswalks that are Americans With Disabilities compliant.
"There's no direct sidewalk connection today so that's something that we identified subsequent to the city's application that we thought would be a great enhancement to the project," Dandrade said. "And then we'll tie in with the park improvements here. The city did a great job at enhancing that park space. There's some great amenities, on both sides of the street with a great view of Hoosic River. So I think that was a great public investment, and we'll be tying in with that, on either end."
The project will have to go through environmental permitting and through the Conservation Commission because of the proximity of the Hoosic River.
Mayor Thomas Bernard said he was glad the designers were taking into account the recent improvements to Brayton Park.
"It's important that we all recognize that since we started this conversation, new amenities that have come on that the community really hasn't had a full opportunity to enjoy because of the pandemic," he said. "But we're really proud of that work and the partnerships ... with different agencies of the state to make these improvements and stay connected to each other."
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Say goodbye to this burst of spring — Mother Nature prefers a little chaos in her work.
The warm temperatures of Wednesday are about to plummet as a snowstorm — yes a snowstorm — bears down on the Berkshires.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for Pittsfield north and parts of Southern Vermont beginning Thursday evening through Friday night. Total accumulations could reach 6 inches in the higher elevations.
Accuweather is forecasting up to 10 inches with rain all day Thursday and temperatures dipping into the 40s. Thursday night will temperatures dropping into the 30s.
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