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Residents Help Shape Great Barrington Safe Streets Effort

Great Barrington, Massachusetts is turning to its residents to find ways to make its streets safer.

Wednesday night, concerned citizens convened at Great Barrington’s Claire Teague Senior Center to contribute to a new initiative for safer streets.

“The Complete Streets program is a program where when towns improve streets, we’re no longer looking at just streets for cars — we’re looking at streets for all users, whether you’re a bicyclist or somebody who walks or runs, or maybe you’re in a wheelchair or you’re pushing a stroller. A Complete Street is something for everybody, regardless of how they travel," said Chris Rembold, the Town Planner.

“The event tonight was to gather feedback on a list of projects that people have identified as priorities for them. So, last month we had a survey out where people responded about, ‘Do they feel safe walking and biking in Great Barrington?’ ‘What would improve walking and biking in Great Barrington?’ Crosswalks, new sidewalks, et cetera,” said Rembold.

The survey received about 300 responses in the town of about 7,500.

“We took a look back at the list using the survey information, added a lot more items to it that we got a lot of feedback about, and so now we’re here to get input on that as the town goes forward with funding,” said Eammon Coughlin.

Coughlin is a transportation planner with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. The countywide community and economic development organization has worked with Great Barrington for months on the Complete Streets program. At the end of the meeting, attendees used stickers on a map of potential projects to indicate where they think potential funding should go.

“It’s looking from the board there that definitely East Street and Castle Hill traffic calming looks to be popular,” reported Coughlin.

“I prioritized traffic calming techniques that could be used on East Street, like speed bumps or radar signs that are solar powered, because there have been traffic accidents and people have died on that street, and anyone who lives on that street or walks on that street knows how dangerous it is,” said Naomi Blumenthal, a homeowner on East Street who has lived in Great Barrington for 20 years.

“I’m concerned that that area has been a problem for a long time and I’m not sure why it hasn’t been paid attention to," said Blumenthal. "It seems like it’s kind of a serious problem there that hasn’t been addressed before now.”

“I chose the bicycle accommodation on Main Street, because it’s very dangerous to ride your bicycle down there," said Malcolm Fick, a seven-year town resident who sits on the planning board. He retired to Great Barrington from Delaware.

“I chose the Housatonic Main Street sidewalk because it’s very dangerous to walk there," said Fick, "And I chose the East Street calming, even though I’m one of the ones who travels mostly on East Street in my car, it’s hazardous feeling even walking on the sidewalks there — so it would be good to see the traffic slow down on East Street.”

With the public feedback, Rembold and the BRPC can select projects and assemble an application to MassDOT for up to $400,000 in grant money to make residents’ visions of a safer Great Barrington possible.

“We’ll wrap up this planning process over the summer, and by the end of August we’ll have a Complete Streets plan in place," said Rembold. "When we have that plan in place in safe September or October, we will actually apply to MassDOT for the funds.”

For more information on Great Barrington’s Complete Streets program, visit their website.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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