NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The busy intersection at East Main, Pleasant and Miner is expected to become a three-way stop.
The City Council last week passed to a second reading an ordinance to install a new stop sign on the westbound lane of East Main Street so that drivers coming down the hill will have to pause before entering the intersection.
There are already stop signs on Miner and Pleasant streets. East Main has been the right of way and will continue to be so in the eastbound lane.
The council also approved reducing the speed limit on East Main Street to 25 mph with the exception of the school zone by Colegrove Park Elementary School which is set at 20 mph.
The traffic change had been recommended by the Public Safety Committee, which had met immediately prior to the City Council last Tuesday. The change has been under discussion for some time following an accident at the intersection in which a child was injured.
"I think it's important for us to note that that this actually addresses two birds with one stone in a way," Public Safety Committee member Benjamin Lamb said at that committee's meeting. "In that this corridor has been identified consistently by neighborhood community members as a bypass essentially for folks who are traveling to and from locations, east and north."
The reduction in speed to the unusual number of 25 mph may make it less appealing to those looking for a short cut and make the stop sign more viable, he thought.
"Based on research that was done in Boston, lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles an hour actually has a statistically significant impact on the number of individuals who speed over the speed limit," he said.
Lamb thought if police were there often enough when the limit is first reduced, it would further get drivers in the habit of slowing as they use the steep winding roadway.
Committee member Peter Oleskiewicz agreed with the speed limit reduction. "People's patterns do need to change and ... like everyone says it does come down for enforcement but you can't have an officer in every hot spot in the city," he said.
Public Safety Committee Chairman Jason LaForest also concurred in the speed limit saying the stop sign could not work alone.
"I'm not in agreement with the stop sign in isolation, but with the warning about the stop sign and then seeing what we can do going forward also in terms of lighting and other features to slow traffic through that intersection which we'll get to further on, I think it makes sense," he said.
Oleskiewicz, however, did not agree with the stop sign and voted against it as a recommendation and later that evening as city councilor. He and Councilor Lisa Blackmer believed the sign would cause problems for drivers coming down the steep hill.
"I think the problem is Miner Street coming up on East Main Street and it's people making a left off of Miner along with people on Pleasant Street cutting across," Blackmer said at City Council. "It would make more sense to have a sign 'intersection ahead slow down' on all four corners, a sign [on Miner] saying 'no left turn' to go up East Main Street."
She acknowledged there had been one bad accident at the intersection in recent years but wanted to see statistics how many accidents had occurred over the past five years.
"I just wanted to say that I have reservations about inserting a set up a stop sign, in the absence of any other safety features at this intersection," LaForest replied. "However, you know the intention is that this is one effort to make a dangerous intersection safer. ... This is not the end end game for this intersection."
Blackmer has consistently called for better enforcement before making changes and LaForest agreed that was optimal but often not possible. There is an element of "self-policing," he said and that drivers have to take some responsibility for their actions.
Lamb noted there were three components that the council would be voting on: two changes in ordinance related to the stop sign and speed limit and an order for a sign warning of a stop ahead to be installed farther east on East Main.
"It's a matter of having multiple systems in place that all feed into a common thread of safety," he said. "So regardless of how many accidents have been there, one child almost died last year, getting hit at that intersection and that's unacceptable."
Oleskiewicz thought the main issue was drivers coming up Miner Street. "I just don't agree with the stop signs at the bottom of the hill," he said. "It is the right-of-way street, I think the mechanisms are in place — we just needed to define the speed limit, and some more safety signage."
Councilor Marie T. Harpin said she had reservations about the sign as well but would support it.
"There were several neighbors that came to the council and really wanted something to happen in that location and said there were multiple accidents there," she said. "I think something needs to be done. I also think a stop sign may prevent people from using it as a shortcut."
Councilor Jessica Sweeney, who also serves on the Traffic Commission, said the commission meeting at which this issue came up was the most attended.
"There were a lot of concerns, not just from the family that was involved with the accident this year but also many other people who don't even necessarily live in that neighborhood," she said.
Blackmer said she regularly drives East Main Street and her issues haven't been with east/west traffic but rather with drivers cutting across between Pleasant and Miner.
"I don't know how many near misses I've had not as a person, not as a pedestrian, but in my car with somebody just pulling out — either pulling across in front of me to go to Miner Street or pulling out of Miner Street," she said, adding that her husband, a retired state police officer, also disagreed with the stop sign.
The stop sign ordinance and order for the warning sign passed with only Blackmer and Oleskiewicz in opposition; the speed limit and signage passed unanimously.
The council also approved a recommendation from the Public Safety Committee and Traffic Commission to make the east and west sides of Protection Avenue near the Daniel Alcombright Athletic Complex no-parking zones. The area in question is 700 feet south from 137 Protection Ave. on the east side and 1,200 feet from entrance to the soccer field to the southern end of the chain link fence on the western side. There is are parking areas for the fields and parking available at Greylock Works.