WILLIAMSTOWN -- The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has agreed to take further action on the safety of the Taconic Trail's runaway truck ramp after a request from the Selectmen.
In a letter addressed to the board, MassDOT CEO Richard Davey said the region's highway division has been authorized to move forward with mid-term safety recommendations.
In June of 2011, David Belair, of Salem, was killed when his runaway tractor-trailer truck bypassed the truck ramp, ran through the intersection of Routes 2 and 7 and came to rest in Hemlock Brook, narrowly missing adjacent buildings. His passenger, Raymond Hairston, of Lynn, was injured in the crash.
Since then, town residents and officials have called for safety improvements on the steep stretch of road that descends from New York state.
But the Selectmen's request that the state look into the realignment of Route 2, so trucks can better see and access the truck ramp, will not yet be addressed.
"MassDOT will consider these long-term recommendations in the future," Davey wrote. "However, at this time we are implementing the recommendations that we believe will have immediate safety improvements. Ramp usage will also be more closely monitored to verify effectiveness of these improvements."
A safety study, prepared for MassDOT in December, outlined potential safety enhancements at the truck ramp and Route 2. Upgrades labeled short-term have already been implemented,
A major mid-term enhancement MassDOT will soon implement is the addition of overhead signage at the truck ramp entrance. The overhead sign would use flashing lights to highlight the ramp's entrance. In addition, Mass DOT is investigating the recommendation of a roadway brake-check area further up the Taconic Trail.
In other business at Monday's meeting, Selectmen were updated by the Planning Board on proposed amendments to Chapter 70 of the Code of Williamstown. Planning Board Chair Ann McCallum and member Patrick Dunlavey presented seven amendments, including updating the town's maps to using the new Global Information Systems (GIS) maps.
Also, under proposed amendments, the Tourist Business district designation, used in two locations in town, would be eliminated.
"We feel that it doesn't have much to offer," McCallum explained.
Certain properties along Cold Spring Road and North Street currently carry the Tourist Business designation, McCallum said. Under proposed amendments, those properties on North Street would be rezoned as Limited Business.
Those properties on Cold Spring Road would be rezoned as Southern Gateway, a new zone combining all uses allowed in Tourist Business and Rural Residential three.
The new zone would protect the character of the Route 7 corridor by limiting development, McCallum said, but also bring more use to the existing buildings. Many buildings on the Route 7 corridor are empty, she explained, because their current designation as Tourist Business prohibits many uses.
Some discussion hovered on wording in the amendment, with Selectmen providing feedback to McCallum and Dunlavey before referring the seven amendments back to the Planning Board.
To reach Edward Damon, email