ADAMS -- The best solution for Route 8 traffic at the intersection of Friend and Columbia streets could be what Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., representative Matthew Chase coined "the first roundabout in Berkshire County."
Both Chase and Director of Community Development Donna Cesan seemed to lean in this direction at a Selectmen's workshop meeting Wednesday night, where a traffic project for the intersection was the focus of discussion.
VHB, the company in charge of design, presented three potential layouts for the project at the meeting -- the first two including traffic signals and the third being the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's favored method of dealing with such traffic issues: the roundabout.
"The object of the project is to better facilitate the flow of traffic from the side streets while maintaining pedestrian safety," said Chase. "Roundabouts are starting to pop up in places throughout the state, and MassDOT is looking to put a lot more of these in."
Both the city of Northampton and the campus at UMass Amherst have had similar roundabouts put in. Roundabouts differ from rotaries only in that they are narrower, with the design presented being 116 feet at its widest.
Traffic reviews conducted by VHB found that 17,000 vehicles per day pass this section of Route 8, and that figure could potentially jump to 22,000 due to major projects slated in North Adams, including a Walmart Supercenter and potential development at the former North Adams Plaza. Given this volume, Chase argued a roundabout would provide the best flow because traffic would never stop, as opposed to the long lines of cars that would result from traffic signals.
The project is being funded by a $600,000 federal earmark dedicated to highway improvement and is slated for 2013, though the reserved funding allows for flexibility.
Wednesday's meeting was purely informational. Planning for the project is only 25 percent complete, according to Chase and Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, but Selectmen Chair Arthur Harrington invited property owners Jim Rose and Dan Maloney from the abutting 7-Eleven and McAndrews-King, respectively, to attend. Each was invited to give their thoughts on the designs.
Chief among the two owners' concerns was the space required from their lots needed to put in extra right-hand lanes in both the north and south roads in the roundabout design. Chase assured the owners that adjustment was possible and that the design remains in the early stages.
Moving forward, Selectmen will eventually have to come to a consensus on a preferred design in subsequent meetings, and a public forum, scheduled by the state, will follow.