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Editorial: Good to see swift reactions in wake of fatal Colrain accident

  • The selectmen have already agreed to spend $1,400 for a better warning sign to be installed in the next week or so on the steep section of Greenfield Road, urging heavily loaded trucks to “use a lower gear” before taking the long sloping road into the center. RECORDER FILE


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Too often we recognize the most serious problems only in hindsight after a tragedy, such as the fatal dump truck crash in Colrain last month. It’s awful for everyone — and in this case certainly worst for the truck driver’s widow, who showed great courage, grit and amazing self control when she turned up at a town meeting convened to prevent another such tragedy.

Gloria Leustek, the widow of crash victim Robert Leustek, 46, a New Hampshire farmer and selectman in his town, urged Colrain officials to take immediate action to make the road safer.

“As soon as I heard of the other accidents on this road, I knew I had to come to this meeting,” she told selectmen two weeks after the crash. “Something needs to be done. You can’t bring my husband back from the dead. But something needs to be done — whatever you need to do, temporarily, to save lives,” she said. “This is not acceptable.”

Her husband’s truck ran off Greenfield Road and into a vacant brick building at 3 Main Road. It had been the second truck crash in two months near the Jacksonville-Main-Greenfield roads intersection involving the loss of brakes on the long downhill slope into the village — where other vehicles have crashed into houses over the years.

To their credit, the Selectboard members didn’t need any prodding. As Town Coordinator Kevin Fox said recently, “This accident has taken (safety concerns) to a whole new level.’’

The selectmen have already agreed to spend $1,400 for a better warning sign to be installed in the next week or so on the steep section of Greenfield Road, urging heavily loaded trucks to “use a lower gear” before taking the long sloping road into the center.

With the Colrain Central School buses crossing the intersection where the Aug. 15 crash occurred, the Selectboard asked School Committee members to ask Superintendent Michael Buoniconti to write a letter of support for long-term safety measures to be addressed by Mass. Department of Transportation.

Like the town, state highway officials are already engaged. Last week, a DOT engineer supported the town’s decision for the sign as an immediate safety measure, but at the same time the department is adjusting plans for studying long-term safety solutions. Those could include some sort of runaway truck ramp, which has been discussed over the years but never built.

A state highway official says the intersection will likely be redesignated as a “high crash location” for Franklin County and will be eligible for Highway Safety Improvement Program funding.

We hope so and hope that members of our legislative team on Beacon Hill will lobby for the money to make needed changes.

Fox said the town will also be replacing some of the older, smaller warning signs on the downhill side of the road that don’t meet the latest reflectivity standards for road signs. That can’t hurt either in the short term and might well save another life.