Pittsfield East Street Redevelopment Includes Complete Streets Efforts

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A shared-use path has been added to plans for the redevelopment on East Street to align with the city's efforts to support multimodal transportation.

Eventually, this will enable cyclists to take the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail into downtown from a future extension that comes out by O'Connell Oil.  

Currently, there are preliminary design plans for an $8.8 million infrastructure project that extends from the oil company to the Merrill Road and East Street intersection that will facilitate bike traffic.

The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority received an update this month on the state Department of Transportation's East Street improvement project that will extend from the intersection of Merrill Road to the intersection of Elm Street.

In early proposals, improvements went only to Lyman Street. Recently, the city gave MassDOT the OK to expand improvements throughout the entire corridor.

Project elements include turn lanes at intersections, improved sidewalks with Americans with Disability Act accommodations, new crosswalks, reconstructed traffic signals, and upgrades to the existing infrastructure.

The goal is to improve safety, accessibility, and aesthetics with minimum impacts to the environment while supporting Pittsfield as a gateway city.

There was a 25 percent design public hearing in July and planners anticipate a completed design, permitting, and right-of-way process in the winter of 2024 to 2025.

MassDOT District Project Engineer Eric Bilik told PEDA that the project is a result of a planning study from the late 1990s that conceptualized the William Stanley Business Park property as a potential economic development site to promote business.

Along with this was an identified need to beautify the East Street corridor and do necessary infrastructure improvements.

"With that being said it's been a long time coming," Bilik added.

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales said the city is excited about the addition of 5-foot buffer lanes along each side of East Street and the general consideration for multimodal traffic. 

Incorporating the state's Complete Streets program has been a citywide effort. The movement aims to support residents' safety, health, economic vitality, and quality of life by improving the motorized and non-motorized environments in a community.

Projects such as the reconfiguration of North Street to include bike lanes and the Bike Facilities Master Plan support this ideal.

"It's important for us to maintain bicycle access in the rest of the corridor, recognizing that yes, the rail trail continuity is important, but recognizing that that is more of a recreational type of activity," Morales said.

"We also want to provide more commuter-type activity for every day."

He added that the city is working with the Downtown Pittsfield Initiative (DPI) to ensure there are proper transportation points from the shared use paths to bikes lanes and so on.

There are a number of similar efforts within the city.

Just feet away from East Street is the in-progress roundabout that is part of a 5.5 million makeover of Tyler Street.  Construction began in summer and is staged to be completed in the spring.

The Woodlawn Avenue bridge was reopened in 2016 after a $4.5 million reconstruction.

In addition, an extension of Pittsfield's Ashuwillticook Rail Trail to Crane Avenue is nearing completion.  The 1.56-mile extension runs South from the vicinity of the mall Connector Road to Crane Avenue.

It is part of the trail system that currently runs nearly 13 miles through Lanesborough to Lime Street in Adams and planners want to extend it through the county.

During the meeting, a PEDA member said the left turn from East Street onto Silver Lake Boulevard is very challenging and would like to see traffic mitigation measures taken there.

In other news, Business Development Manager Michael Coakley said progress has been slowed on the development of Site 9 because the interested company's vice president resigned.

The site is undergoing a redevelopment study with the help of more than $1 million in MassDevelopment funds. 

Coakley reported that an additional $6.3 million MassWorks grant was applied for but not awarded. He was encouraged by the grantees to try again and PEDA voted to approve future applications for grant agreements and awards.

Tags: Ashuwillticook Rail Trail,   complete streets,   

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Toys For Tots Providing for Thousands of Berkshire County Kids

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Piles of toys being sorted for age and gender in the Toys for Tots drive. More than 3,500 children are expected to receive toys through the program this year. 

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Thousands of local kids will have presents to open this holiday season thanks to the Marine Corps' annual Toys For Tots collection.

The Berkshire County House of Correction's storage building looked more like Santa's workshop as a dozen volunteers sorted mountains of toys for ages newborn to 14.  

"Everything's going great," Berkshire County coordinator Christopher Keegan said. "How could it not?"

Last year, about 3,500 kids received toys and Keegan expects that number to be surpassed this year. The state Department of Children and Families, one of more than 20 participating agencies, has more than a thousand sign-ups alone.  

Individuals also register with Keegan directly and online.

For nearly a decade, he has seen more and more tots needing toys during the holiday season. Between 2021 and 2022, the receiving list increased by around 800 kids.

Unwrapped toys are collected through boxes placed in businesses, schools, and other public spaces. There were more than 240 boxes this year and they were collected on Tuesday to be sorted by gender and age groups.

The drive sees everything from dolls and toy trucks to a Little Tikes basketball hoop and donations are still coming in. Shoppers fill any gaps with funds that are raised through events like the Toys For Tots musical bingo, which was a great success this year.

Keegan's yearly goal is to honor every request for toys. There are many returning volunteers who collect, pack, shop for, and deliver the presents — sometimes up until Christmas Eve.

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