PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A $5.5 million makeover of Tyler Street is on the horizon.
The Department of Community Development hosted a virtual public meeting on Wednesday for the Tyler Street Streetscape and Roundabout Project to provide the public with details on the improvements and to allow questions and feedback.
Construction is aimed to begin early this summer and run through the rest of this calendar year into next year. The project will be advertised and bid on in March following an award contract and Issue Notice to Proceed in April before construction begins in May.
Presenting at the webinar were City Planner CJ Hoss and City Engineer Allison McMordie, joined by Jeffrey Fasser and Bill Paille of BSC Group Consulting Firm.
"We were planning on doing this meeting about a year ago in person, and we held on because we knew we had time before construction was to begin and because we had to apply for MassWorks funds to actually bring all the funds together so that we could do this project as one project and not have to break it up into pieces," Hoss said.
"And when the pandemic hit, we thought we'd hold on until we can meet in person because this is a meeting we would prefer to do in person but at this point, things are not improving as far as being able to have a meeting."
The streetscape project has been in the works since 2015 and will redesign Tyler Street to increase safety for all modes of transportation including automobile, bus, bicycle, and pedestrians. At the same time, it is expected to improve the safety and traffic flow at the intersection of Tyler Street, Woodlawn and Dalton avenues by constructing a roundabout.
Pedestrian safety will also be enhanced with the installation of visible crossings, curb extensions, dedicated bicycle lanes, and dedicated bus stops while preserving on-street parking.
Hoss said it is especially important to raise awareness of the coming changes to neighboring residents, businesses, and property owners as well as those who regularly drive on Tyler Street.
The planners' vision is to "maintain a mixed-use district that is a local and regional destination, serve a diverse population and workforce through a mix of housing choices and encourage economic development and collaboration for education, community engagement, access to fresh produce, and job training."
Targeted goals include creating a multimodal transportation network, connecting Tyler Street with downtown Pittsfield and anchor employers, incorporating elements of "complete streets and "complete communities," and improving connections between public rights of way and private development.
Paille explained that there are problematic areas on Tyler that are not up to code, including wheelchair ramps that have been modified or destroyed over the years without detectable warning panels, a long cross at the intersection without a traffic signal, faded markings, destroyed pavement, insufficient lighting, and curb cuts that don't make sense. There also are a number of issues with compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
"And finally, the signal is three intersections of signal lines," Paille said. "They're outdated, their rusting equipment is old, doesn't always work properly, the pushbuttons do not meet code for ADA compliance. And so that's everywhere. And, and also some of the equipment's in the wrong place. And so part of this project is not just aesthetics, its safety, its ADA compliance."
To ensure that those who will experience the streetscape project the most will have input, several community organizers were consulted from 2015 to 2021 including Better Block, the Bicycle Facilities Master Plan, local stakeholders, and the Tyler Street Business Group.
Hoss addressed comments the planners have received about a lack of recent public engagement on the project and said that is true for two reasons: one being the webinar's delay and also because the design was completed in 2019, but a survey of the entire corridor had to be done and then have engineering plans completed to get where it stands today.
"If you are a property owner, and you're listening to this, and we haven't gotten to yet, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email," Hoss said. "We really want to talk to you about what these improvements look like and ensure that access is still being adequately maintained to your property through your company."
Both residents and business owners offered their support for the project in the webinar along with asking questions. A resident of upper Woodlawn Avenue expressed her gratitude for the intersection improvements at the end of her street, as the area has been proven to be problematic.
"Thanks for everything you're doing CJ It's been a long lead we're finally here," Tyler Street Business Group Chair Diane Marcella said.
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