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Lysak charges DPW with fixing dangerous Berkshire-Cottage intersection

Date: 3/28/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — City Councilor John Lysak has formally requested the Department of Public Works (DPW) seek a solution to the unsafe intersection at Berkshire Avenue and Cottage Street.

Lysak said he has spoken to DPW Director Al Chwalek about the intersection as well as sent him a letter.

"It's a tough intersection," Lysak told Reminder Publications, adding that at 5 p.m. during the evening trip home for many people the conditions are worse.

The number of accidents that have taken place motivated Lysak to take action, including a recent one involving a bus. He added that a resident he knows personally was in a serious accident caused by a car pulling out of Cottage Street onto Berkshire Avenue. The result was the resident's car was totaled.

He said the traffic on Berkshire Avenue could be "very, very heavy" and that people exiting Cottage Street "get sick of waiting and cut off other cars."

In his letter to Chwalek, Lysak wrote, "I am writing you in reference to the safety of the Berkshire Avenue and Cottage Street intersection, located in Ward 8. With the recent school bus accident at this intersection, I wanted to touch base regarding the feasibility of installing a traffic light at this intersection. If a traffic light cannot be installed, then I would like you to at the very least look at the possibility of widening the westbound lane of Cottage Street.

"According to the recently released Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) draft report of the 100 most dangerous intersections in the region, the Berkshire Avenue and Cottage Street intersection is listed as the 73rd most dangerous intersection in the Pioneer Valley. In September 2009 the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission conducted a Transportation and Congestion study of this intersection. Their report determined that the intersection met three of eight warrants required for the installation of a traffic signal.

"The most important of these Warrants 'Eight Hour Traffic Volume' was satisfied. The report stated that before a signal could be recommended for installation, improved signage, and all other measures to reduce traffic congestion should be exhausted.

"This congestion study advised that during the morning peak hour of 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. the average delay was 160.8 seconds, with traffic back up of 363 feet. During the afternoon peak hour of 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. the average delay was 271.5 seconds, with traffic back up of 845 feet. This is obviously unacceptable, as it creates a public safety issue for vehicles and pedestrians.

"I would like to know what steps the city has taken to improve traffic flow and congestion problems at this intersection since the release of this study in September 2009. I would also like your determination on how effective any improvements to the intersection have been.

"Lastly, since the report states that 85 percent of traffic turning off of Cottage Street onto Berkshire Avenue is turning right, I would ask that the city determine the feasibility of widening the westbound lane of Cottage Street up to Brookdale Drive. This would allow for the creation of two dedicated extended turning lanes in the eastbound lane, which may reduce traffic delays for vehicles coming off of Cottage Street. It could also reduce the risk drivers take in making quick turns onto Berkshire Avenue in order to beat the oncoming traffic."

The report from the PVPC recommended one other measure the city should consider besides installing a traffic light and widening the lane. The 2009 report noted, "At the time of the field inventory a number of vehicles were observed to be parked on the sidewalk in the vicinity of Economy Motor Sales. This reduces the width of the existing sidewalk for pedestrians and could also interfere with sight distance in the vicinity of the intersection. The city of Springfield should work with the property owner to identify alternatives to parking vehicles on the sidewalk and impacting the safety of both pedestrians and motorists in the vicinity of the intersection."

Lysak said Chwalek told him there are worse intersections in the city that need redesigning, but Lysak maintained, "This one is pretty bad."

According to a 2012 report from the PVPC, of the top 100 high crash intersections in the region, Springfield has the most at 46, followed by Holyoke with 14 and Chicopee with 12. From 2007 through 2009, there were 33 crashes at Berkshire Avenue and Cottage Street.