WILLIAMSTOWN -- A major safety improvement for the Taconic Trail is approximately six weeks away from construction, according to a state transportation official.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) spokesman Mike Verseckes said in an email this week that a plan to install a 12-foot-by-six-foot sign with four flashing lights denoting the route's runaway truck ramp is awaiting comments and approval from engineers.
"This is pending approval, which we expect within the next two or three weeks," he said Tuesday, adding that construction could possibly begin within six weeks.
The sign is being installed after Selectmen requested the state take extra steps to improve safety at the truck ramp and the intersection of routes 2 and 7. The intersection at the base of the Taconic Trail (Route 2) with Cold Spring Road (Route 7) has been the site of many accidents over the years.
In June 2011, David Belair, of Salem, was killed when his runaway tractor-trailer truck bypassed the truck ramp, ran through the intersection and came to rest in Hemlock Brook, narrowly missing adjacent buildings. His passenger, Raymond Hairston, of Lynn, was injured in the crash.
A safety study, prepared for MassDOT by the BETA Group in December 2012, listed safety enhancements to be implemented and measures to be further evaluated.
A realignment of Route 2 was listed as a "long-term" change to be considered. The report notes that the curvature of Route 2 before the truck ramp could influence the likelihood of a driver using the ramp.
"The truck entrance is near the end of a reverse curve, requiring a driver to turn to the right immediately after navigating a turn to the left," it states. A driver may be hesitant to turn further to the right to enter the truck ramp because a load shift would overturn the vehicle.
The report states that MassDOT "will monitor the short term improvements to determine if more costly changes are warranted."
Verseckes said the agency has already implemented short-term improvements, including the installation of new, highly reflective signage and a new detailed sign depicting the intersection of the two routes.
"In addition, with the town's approval, we have done some [brush] clearing leading up to the ramp to improve lines of sight," he said.
MassDOT also constructed a berm on the ramp to slow a truck and installed wire netting at the end of the ramp, he said.
"Since it was installed, the wire has only been replaced once because the ramp is rarely used," Verseckes said.
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