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North Adams Council Refers Eagle Street Traffic Issues to Mayor
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:59AM / Friday, April 29, 2022
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The Traffic Commission has made recommendations on lighting and signage to help make the crosswalks at the intersection of North Church, Eagle and Center streets safer.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday referred traffic and pedestrian issues on historic Eagle Street to the mayor's office and a filed another one on artistic cross walks. 
 
Both issues had been raised last year by former Councilor Benjamin Lamb. 
 
The papers had been taken up by the Traffic Commission on April 13; Councilor Marie T. Harpin, the appointed council member on the commission, provided an update and recommendations from the commission. 
 
"There were three recommendations. One was to install illuminated crosswalk signs and I believe and I believe there is a grant in process for that," she said. "To add stripes to the crosswalk markings ... which just makes it more noticeable for people crossing, and the other recommendation was to put a crosswalk mid-block."
 
Councilor Keith Bona didn't think a mid-block crosswalk was possible because of state and federal regulations. A mid-block crosswalk on Main Street had been removed, he noted, when the street had work done with federal money more than a decade ago. 
 
"We just need to make sure if we received any funding or anything and DOT has a say over it, just make sure we're OK with that," he said. "There are some stipulations of how much clearance you need to see before the next crosswalk."
 
Councilor Ashley Shade said the crosswalks at the north end Eagle at the flatiron building was a serious safety issue. 
 
"I find that the most problematic piece of intersection is not so much the Eagle Street towards Main, but the middle of the intersection that bridges Center Street, Eagle Street and North Church Street," she said. "When you're crossing the street there, it's very difficult for cars that are coming down [North Church] to see somebody crossing the street. And it's very easy to have to stop frequently in the middle of the crosswalk or jump back away from traffic coming through. ...
 
"I feel that's where the most dangerous piece of that is."
 
Shade said she uses that crosswalk frequently because its near where she lives and been nearly hit a number of times because of the poor sightlines. 
 
Councilor Bryan Sapienze agreed, saying that pedestrians "pop out" from near the Pizza House and "you really can't see them until you're on top of the intersection if you're coming out of Center Street."
 
He was supportive of higher visibility crosswalks and lighted signs. 
 
Councilor Peter Oleskiewicz, who had attended the April 13 meeting, said that particular intersections was part of a lengthy discussion that was slated to continue.  
 
Councilors noted that the markings were also worn at this time of year. The city stripes its streets once a year. 
 
Resident Robert Smith spoke out very strongly during hearing of visitors, tasking the council to take steps such as putting in speed bumps to slow traffic on Eagle. He was frustrated at the end of the meeting that this was not done and accused the council of not doing its job. 
 
Bona said the council can't just decide to put in speed bumps because they are consultations with the state Department of Transportation and engineering that would have to be done, with which the mayor agreed. 
 
"There's a process with MassDOT but we will happily look at the recommendations from the Traffic Commission," Mayor Jennifer Macksey said. "Hopefully we will get the traffic grant, which will help with some signage and some maybe some flashing lights, and those canisters in road. That to me is a simple quick fix. And as far as speed bumps and more crosswalks, we'll explore that with DOT."
 
As to speeding on Eagle, Traffic Commission Chair MaryAnn King had provided radar data at the April 13 meeting that had been taken during a mid-morning and a mid-afternoon period on two different days in March. Officers clocked almost 200 vehicles that had an average speed of about 22 mph; only three cars were clocked at 31, one mile over posted speed of 30 mph.
 
"The hard thing with speeds in like watching them from a sidewalk, it's they do portray to be going faster than what they really are," she told the commissioners, but noted that the police chief and mayor were looking at more police presence there at certain times. 
 
The commission discussed whether to reduce the speed further to 25 mph. King said it was unlikely officers would stop anyone within five miles of the speed limit, noting the highest speed they measured was 31.
 
The City Council on Tuesday referred back to the Public Arts Commission the request on artistic crosswalks. 
 
The Traffic Commission had unanimously recommended against such crosswalk painting in the past based on state and federal standards. At the meeting earlier this month, federal studies were cited that found them distracting to drivers and possible hazards for pedestrians if they are not recognizable as crosswalks and if the wrong paint was used. 
 
Bona questioned why some cities were not only decorating their crosswalks but painting whole streets. If the commission had recommended painting diagonal lines within crosswalks, why not something else? he asked. 
 
"I'm going to vote no just because I feel like there's obviously ways of it being done without communities losing funding," he said of the initial motion to file. "I just don't know why a city with the world's largest contemporary art museum can't have artistic crosswalks on our roads and so many others do."
 
Councilor Wayne Wilkinson said he enjoyed the painted crosswalks and Shade thought the Traffic Commission should have looked at communities that were doing it.
 
The vote to file failed 6-3, and then a motion to refer to the PAC passed 6-3. Councilors Jennifer Barbeau, Harpin and Sapienza were on the losing end of both votes. Sapienza is a member of the Public Arts Commission; the chair of the commission, Anna Farrington, voted to recommend against the crosswalks as a member of the Traffic Commission. 
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