WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Selectmen will request the state do further study on the effectiveness and safety of the runaway truck ramp at the intersection of the Taconic Trail (Route 2) and Cold Spring Road (Route 7), expressing concern that a road realignment will be needed to remedy the situation.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) representative Mark Moore was present at Monday's meeting to discuss improvements that have been made to the road and recommendations to be implemented.
"One thing that resonates with me is a lot of these recommendations deal with folks noting where the runaway truck ramp is," Chairman David Rempell said. "The question is, whether or not they can get into the ramp if the truck is out of control."
The intersection has been the site of many accidents over the years, often involving tractor-trailers. A runaway truck ramp was opened in 2002 as a way to stop tractor-trailers that had lost use of their brakes during the long descent on Route 2 from New York state before they reach the intersection.
On June 29, 2011, a runaway tractor-trailer went through the intersection and crashed into a brook, passing between a house and a bakery. The driver, David Belair, who for reasons unknown didn't utilize the ramp when his brakes failed, was pronounced dead at the scene, and a passenger, Raymond Hairston, was injured.
Following a safety audit, MassDOT took several steps to address safety concerns, including clearing brush to improve visibility and posting a large sign informing drivers of the ramp. This spring, new high-reflectivity signs will replace all existing signs, rumble strips in front of the ramp entrance will be removed and a new sign will be posted to show drivers a diagram of the oncoming intersection, including the truck ramp location.
Moore told the board another idea was installing a camera at the entrance of the ramp.
"We don't have a really clear idea on how often the ramp is used," he said, and explained a camera could capture trucks that use the ramp to determine its effectiveness.
But some Williamstown residents, like Robert McCarthy, say this isn't enough. He told the board that because of the topography, curve of the road and line of site, it's almost impossible for a truck driver not familiar with the road to make a split-second decision to turn into the ramp.
"We don't want to be the town that loses a school bus full of kids," he said.
Selectmen agreed that the safety enhancements MassDOT has made and further ones that are planned will help in the meantime.
In other business, selectman voted unanimously to request a flood mitigation study from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in response to a petition from the group Save the Spruces. The group believes tributaries of the Hoosic River around The Spruces Mobile Home Park is contributing to nuisance water at the park. Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 led to extensive flooding at the park.
Save the Spruces Chairman Peter Russell and vice-chairwoman Lucy Sherrill were present to address a study from the board. The Corps requires a public body request a study to look at what could be done to mitigate flooding in the park, Sherrill explained.
"We are a community of self-reliant homeowners who wish to remain in our homes," Sherrill said. "And we need to ask your help."
To reach Edward Damon, email