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Pittsfield Traffic Commission OKs No Right on Red Signs

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Traffic Commission on Thursday voted in favor of two "No Right on Red" signs and heard plans for the intersection of Linden Street and Onota Street.

Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky requested signs that prohibit right turns on red lights at the intersection of North Street and Columbus Avenue and at the intersection of West Street and Center Street.

"I’m bringing this petition forward in regard to some residents that are elderly that live on Columbus Avenue and go to the senior center or some of the people that are at the senior center and they go down to different stores on North Street or down to the Big Y," she said.

"They've almost been hit when trying to cross the street where they have the signal to cross but the cars are taking right on the red."

Kalinowsky pointed out that everyone who has complained about the intersections is elderly and she would hate to see an accident happen.

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales said a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) system has been implemented on Columbus Avenue and Center Street.

"It's going to be up to enforcement for that to be maintained and be an improvement," he explained. "So this in itself cannot be anticipated to be an improvement."

Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey said signs can't hurt and thought it a great idea. While he hopes that people obey the signs, he asked Morales what other measures could be put in place to help pedestrians cross safely.

"What really works that does not really involve really any enforcement is when you create an environment where you have no option but to be very careful when you drive," Morales responded, adding that making crossings physically shorter is also a solution.

He said "road diets" would be the next step to consider, which is where the number of travel lanes and/or width of the road is reduced in order to achieve systemic improvements.

"For example, on something like Columbus and North where we can expand that from the design we have now with the one lane and the double-buffered bike lane," Morales explained.

"That in itself is already narrowing the time someone is potentially vulnerable because there's only one lane as opposed to two and if we can take it to the next level and add more protection, expand that barrier, expand the bump out where we can create that formal protection for the pedestrian that would be ideal."

The city is working with its design firm on a multi-year project for the downtown section of West Street that includes road diets and pedestrian accessibility.

Kalinowksy's petition to place a blinking red light or other traffic light configuration at the intersection of Linden Street and Onota Street was tabled because the panel was pleased with measures that the city already plans to implement this year.

The four-way intersection is a three-way stop and is a well-traveled area.

A resident told Kalinowksy that there have been multiple accidents there and Morales acknowledged that it is troubled and plans are in place for improvements.

The city is proposing creating better sight distances on the southbound lane from Onota Street by moving the stop bar into a better position and extending the curbs on all four corners.

In the design there is a stop sign added to the westbound Linden Street approach, making it a four-way stop that will require a traffic order.

Morales spoke to the resident and said she was happy to see something done about it. Kalinowksy was also happy with the solution.

"I want to say that these are the simple things and we can do that to improve intersections and I would like to see support for this type of improvement whenever we want to improve an intersection as opposed to throwing out more signage and stuff like that," he said.

"I think it's we all want it the same thing and, I respect that, it’s just this is what improves [it.]"

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DA Clears Trooper in Fatal Hancock Shooting

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

District Attorney Timothy Shugrue says the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner will not change his findings, which are based on the video and witnesses. With him are State Police Lts. Chris Bruno and Ryan Dickinson and First Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — District Attorney Timothy Shugrue has determined that State Police Trooper William Munch acted in compliance during what is being described as a "suicide by cop" earlier this month.
On Sept. 9, 64-year-old Phillip Henault reportedly placed a fictitious 911 call about an ongoing violent assault. Body-camera footage from the trooper shows the man advancing on him with two knives before being shot twice and collapsing in the street in front of his Richmond Road residence.
"Mr. Henault was actively using deadly force against law enforcement. There were no other objectively reasonable means that the trooper could have employed at the time in order to effectively protect himself and anyone that was in the home or the public. By virtue of his duties as a police officer, the trooper did not have the obligation to run away from Mr. Henault," Shugrue said during a press conference on Friday.
"Mr. Henault posed an active threat to the trooper and to the public. The trooper had a duty to arrest Mr. Henault who was engaged in various felonies. His arm was an active threat."
The DA determined that Munch's decision to fire his weapon at Henault under the circumstances was a "lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others" compliance with the policies of the State Police and commonwealth law, clearing the trooper of criminal charges and closing the investigation.
The lethal force was labeled as an "unavoidable last resort."
A preliminary autopsy determined the unofficial cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the torso with contributing factors of wounds to the wrists that were inflicted by Heneault. The final report from the medical examiner has not been issued.
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