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Williamstown to Study Potential Roundabout at Water and Main
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:58AM / Friday, October 27, 2017
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preliminary conceptual design for how a traffic circle could be located at the junctions of Route 2 (Main Street) an Route 43 (Water Street) in Williamstown.


Motorists navigate the intersection of Main and Water Streets on Tuesday morning.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Town officials are asking whether a traffic circle could be a solution to a longstanding snarl at the junction of Water Street and Main Street.
 
On Monday, the Board of Selectmen authorized the town manager to use Chapter 90 funds from the commonwealth to do design work for a roundabout at the intersection of the roads, also known as State Routes 2 and 43.
 
Water Street ends in a "T" at Main Street, and traffic frequently backs as motorists attempt to turn left (west) onto Main Street.
 
Town Manager Jason Hoch told the board he hopes to use the same engineering firm that designed the recently completed roundabout on Route 8 in Adams, Albany, N.Y.'s Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. And he pointed to that project and one Northside Drive in Bennington, Vt., as recent success stories for the road feature.
 
"I drive to Adams a couple of times a week, and that circle made a world of difference," Chairman Hugh Daley agreed.
 
The Adams roundabout was constructed for $1.5 million using state and federal funds at the problematic intersection of Columbia and Friend streets. It was often difficult and dangerous to turn left from Friend, or from Renfrew Street across the way, plus the nearby park and the 7-11 convenience store had pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross the heavily trafficked State Route 8 (Columbia).
 
Hoch and Public Works Director Timothy Kaiser presented the idea for a roundabout to the Selectmen.
 
Kaiser said the intersection could accommodate a roundabout similar in size to Adams' traffic circle.
 
"Smaller than a traditional roundabout but still adequate for all truck traffic," he said.
 
In answer to a question from Selectwoman Jane Patton, Kaiser said preliminary study shows the potential roundabout would not impact traffic going through the town's lone traffic light, a little farther to the east on Main Street at the intersection with Cole Avenue. It may require adjustments to the timing cycle of the traffic light.
 
At Tuesday's special fire district meeting, a resident asked whether the potential roundabout could impact the progress of fire engines from the Main Street site the district is acquiring for a new station.
 
"The design would have to include a turning radius for all our trucks, including the ladder truck, which is similar to a tractor-trailer," Fire District Clerk/Treasurer Corydon Thurston said. "Should that happen, we don't see it being an issue for us, in fact, it could help traffic. Traffic lights tend to stack traffic. A circle would be less impactful for us, especially if we're responding from the Lehovec site as opposed to where we are now [on Water Street], where lines of sight are very difficult."
 
Though no one is formally considering a traffic light at the Main and Water Street intersection, Kaiser on Monday did respond to a question by saying that would be the less desirable alternative solution to a roundabout at the site.
 
Although a roundabout, per se, would be a new addition to the Williamstown streetscape, the town does have a one-way traffic circle around Field Park, at the junction of Routes 2 and 7, which was completed in 2009.
 
Hoch did not offer a timeline for this project, but suggested it could be timed sequentially with other Water Street improvements already in the works: the Williams College-funded culvert replacement and the state Department of Transportation-funded reconstruction of the lower end of Water Street.
 
"In optimal planning, the college's culvert project comes first, then the Water Street rebuild," Hoch said. "Then the third project would be improvements at the top of the street."
 
As part of roundabout initiative, Hoch said he is talking to MassDOT about extending the resurfacing of Water Street north to the Main Street intersection -- incorporating the "orphaned end" of the street from the old town garage site (59 Water St.) uphill toward Main.
 
Hoch requested the board to release $125,100 from Chapter 90 funds for design work. He anticipates paying for the work, in part, with help from MassDOT's Complete Streets program.
 
Kaiser said the town should have enough information on cost to submit a Complete Streets application in the spring.
 
Hoch said he has spoken to some of the residents in the immediate vicinity of the proposed roundabout and received positive feedback.
 
"One of them has offered to host a meeting on the project at their place," Hoch said.
 
The board voted 5-0 to allow Hoch to access the Chapter 90 funds.
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