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Williamstown Selectmen Request Truck Ramp Improvements
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
10:08PM / Monday, July 11, 2011
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The Board of Selectmen approved writing a letter to the state Department of Transportation Monday asking to improve the runaway truck ramp on the Taconic Trail.

The Taconic Trail has a right turn just before the runaway truck ramp and the tree line cuts down visibility. The ramp is behind the brush jutting out on the right.

A view from the road as a driver approaches the runaway truck ramp on the Taconic Trail. The second sign on the right points to the ramp.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — In the wake of tragedy, the Board of Selectmen is asking the state to immediately improve visibility of the run-away truck ramp at the end of the Taconic Trail.

A tractor-trailer crashed two weeks ago leaving one dead and one injured when the vehicle failed to stop or pull into the safety ramp at the intersection of Route 2 and Cold Spring Road. The board will write a letter to state officials requesting immediate improvements.

Resident Robert McCarthy, who owns a business located near the crash site, asked the board Monday to pressure state officials to improve the ramp's visibility.

"I've been there, up and down that driveway for the last 50-plus years and I've seen every single tractor-trailer accident that has happened there. I've seen every person who's died die either in the brook or in our yard," McCarthy said. "You have to make a split-second decision and a lot of that is based on the visual concept of where you can put that truck — into that ramp or where? If you can't see the ramp, you don't have enough time to react."

Leading to a ramp is a left turn following shortly by a slight right back onto the straightaway, which cuts down visibility of the ramp, McCarthy said.  The ramp "does work" and is used often but increasing the visibility would further improve its safety, he said.

"The first thing I'd do is I'd go out there and clear the brush and overhanging limbs and cut the grass on the right-hand side of the trail," McCarthy said. "It is a design flaw as far as the approach to the ramp goes."

McCarthy also advocated for clear-cutting all of the brush along the descending, eastbound lane — eliminating a "knob" between the ramp and the road — and installing a larger overhead, flashing sign.

The town was "lucky" that the accident was not worse, he said, because the road is heavily traveled by school buses and ambulances. McCarthy said the visibility issue is a "catastrophe waiting to happen" with the intersection so near the high school and the nursing home.

Selectman Tom Costley echoed that the intersection is a major throughway. However, the road is owned by the state.

"It's not our road," Town Manager Peter Fohlin said. "The shortest distance is to go right to MassHighway."

In other news, Fohlin reported that the former Michael's Restaurant will soon be reopened as Olympic Pizza Family Restaurant. The restaurant will be leased by Mary-Stella Giannaris and will soon be referred to the Board of Health for approval, he said.

Fohlin also said Marion Quinn-Jowett was hired as the Council on Aging's new outreach worker. Jowett is a Williamstown native with 30 years of elder-care experience, with the most recent being at the Brien Center Adult Day Health facility in North Adams.

"Her mother was the first director at the COA," Fohlin added.

The board also re-appointed Charles Bonenti to the Affordable Housing Committee and Lisa DeMayo to the Agricultural Commission.
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