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GCC roundabout construction to begin this spring, summer

Recorder/Paul Franz
Intersection of Colrain Rd and the entrance to GCC, at left, looking north.

Recorder/Paul Franz Intersection of Colrain Rd and the entrance to GCC, at left, looking north.

GREENFIELD — It appears construction of a $1.7 million roundabout to improve the intersection at the entrance of Greenfield Community College, which was supposed to have started last fall, will now begin this spring or summer.

Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said Warner Brothers Inc. of Sunderland will build the roundabout.

Verseckes said the local company came in with the lowest bid.

He said the plan is to reconstruct the intersection at Colrain Road, Colrain Street and College Drive to make it safer.

He said the project will transform the existing intersection into a one-lane roundabout approximately 120 feet in diameter.

Verseckes said for an intersection like the one at the GCC entrance, a roundabout can help improve traffic safety, decreasing the number of rear-end crashes, as well as cross-angle crashes, which are crashes where the front of one vehicle hits the side of another. He said those types of accidents tend to happen frequently at that intersection, but exact numbers were not available.

Greenfield police have often said that enough accidents happen at the college’s entrance and that warranted the state to take a look.

Police said many times what happens is someone is driving north to GCC and starts to take the turn into the college at the same time a person behind them goes around to the right of the car in front and hits someone coming out of Colrain Street.

Verseckes said 80 percent of the project’s cost will be funded by the Federal Highway Administration and the rest will be funded by MassDOT.

He said the state has not yet issued a notice to proceed, but when it is issued, construction will begin. He said that is when the state will have a better idea of how long it will take to complete.

In the past, the state has said it would take about a year to complete the entire project.

Currently, the intersection is controlled by two stop signs: one coming out of the entrance to GCC and one from Colrain Street.

Verseckes said in an earlier interview that the center of the roundabout will be elevated to steer vehicles around the circle and will allow for larger vehicles, including delivery trucks, to pass through the intersection by driving onto the mountable truck apron.

The project will include drainage improvements in that area, line striping, and the erection of new signs.

The state also plans to install new sidewalks and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant wheelchair ramps.

The town hired BETA Group Inc. of Norwood to do the original study on the intersection several years ago. That study focused on speed and traffic volume in that area during peak hours of the morning and afternoon. The town used $68,000 of Chapter 90 highway money to do the study.

The state did its own road safety audit there in 2011, which included an independent safety evaluation that theorized crashes there are related to the “skewed intersection geometry, as well as northbound vehicles on Colrain Road bypassing left-turning vehicles.”

Speeding has also been determined to be a safety issue there, with speeds reaching 10 mph over the posted limits, which range from 25 to 35 mph.

The state highway department will oversee the project and the town will be responsible for dealing with all right-of-way issues on private and public property during construction.

The state has said all roadways in the project area will remain open to traffic during construction, but there will be occasional delays and interruptions.

Pedestrian and vehicular access to abutting properties will be maintained, except for brief periods, which abutters will be notified about.

According to state highway statistics, about 7,000 vehicles travel Colrain Road each day, while Colrain Street and College Drive see about half that volume each day.

To follow the project’s progress, visit: www.massdot.state.ma.us/highway (Project Number 606048).

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