Editorial: Nice to see officials identify problems, offer solutions for Colrain intersection

Friday, December 15, 2017

Last summer, a loaded dump truck traveling downhill on Greenfield Road in Colrain ran off the curve and crashed into the “Blue Block” building at 3 Main Road, killing the driver. This tragedy, coupled with a history of collisions from vehicles traveling down steep Greenfield Road into the Y intersection with Main Road and Jacksonville Road at the foot of the hill, triggered calls for a study and possible road safety improvements.

Now, one of the studies, by the town and the state transportation department, is recommending a range of improvements to the intersection. It appears there’s lots to fix.

Altogether, there have been 12 crashes at this intersection from 2010 to 2017, according to police reports. Seven were single-car crashes, two were rear-end collisions and two were sideswipe collisions. Four crashes were due to vehicles traveling too fast and three were caused by poor roadway conditions. In addition to the fatal accident, two crashes resulted in physical injuries and nine resulted in personal property damage only. Also, at least one large truck crash occurred in the intersection this year.

There were two other relatively minor crashes in the area just this month.

Among the safety concerns the study cites are:

The curvature of Jacksonville-Greenfield-Main roads intersection, which results in a limited line of sight for those coming downhill from Greenfield Road. The report says drivers on either side of the curve have a hard time seeing oncoming traffic.

The curve and grade transitions make it dangerous for vehicles — especially trucks — to travel through the intersection at too-high speeds. Also, those turning left from the church-like Brick Meeting House parking area have limited sight distance along Greenfield Road.

In the winter, traffic increases from skiers going to Vermont, and black ice is a possible danger.

School buses stop near the Brick Meeting House, where there is limited visibility for pedestrians. Signs indicate a pedestrian crossing, but there is no crosswalk.

How to fix some of these shortcomings?

The chief recommendation for improving the poor roadway geometry is to remove the Brick Meeting House or other properties at this intersection to straighten the curve. The Brick Meeting House is an historic structure, now privately owned, so that could prove difficult. The report also suggests improving grades and drainage, adding LED street lights to improve visibility around the intersection and improving ice control measures.

The report also suggests remedies that have been mentioned before now in town discussions: installing a runaway truck ramp, excluding trucks from Greenfield Road and adding rumble strips to address driver fatigue that can lead to trucks running off the road. Other suggestions call for more warning signs, reflective pavement markers for better nighttime visibility, flashing school zone lights and more crosswalks.

That’s a lot to consider, with some of the ideas more feasible than others. But it’s good to see Colrain officials partnering with the state Department of Transportation to seriously address a dangerous intersection. There apparently are many options, which is encouraging. We want to applaud the concern shown so far, and we are sure that the town’s leaders will sort through the many options outlined so far and find the right combination of changes that will limit the number of future accidents — and eliminate any future loss of life.