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Pittsfield Council Opts To Remove 'Annoying' No Turn On Red Sign
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
03:00AM / Wednesday, July 10, 2019
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With a light summer agenda, the City Council hammered out a handful of traffic items.


Most drivers don't really understand why there is no right turn on red here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council opted to get rid of the "annoying" no turn on red sign at West Street and Valentine Road, despite concerns raised by the city's engineer.
 
Councilors Anthony Simonelli and John Krol petitioned to remove the sign that stops people from taking rights off of West Street and onto Valentine Road in its own separate lane. The move calls for taking down the sign and a traffic light to allow for those in the turning lane to take a right on red.
 
"It is a really annoying sign at an intersection that a lot of people don't follow anyway," Krol said.
 
However, City Engineer Ricardo Morales did a sightline analysis and realized that the sign is there for a reason. He said there is only 135 feet of sight distance for vehicles on West to see others coming straight on Jason Street, when there should be 240 feet. Morales said that people creep onto the crosswalk to stop instead of at the stop line where they should now. 
 
"The issue here is probably mitigated by vehicles going over the stop bar and standing on the crosswalk before taking the turn," he said.
 
Morales said to properly change it to match safety standards would require changing the corner, reducing the turning radius, and repositioning the crosswalks to make the stop lines closer.
 
"I don't know why this was installed but having this be a sight distance issue, that could very well be the reason," Morales said.
 
Simonelli, however, said Jason is not a well-traveled road and there haven't been any crash issues there, even with people ignoring the sign. At the Traffic Commission meeting to discuss it, the department had no data on recent traffic accidents there.
 
"I don't think it is a dangerous intersection," Simonelli said.
 
There is no crosswalk or sidewalk on the easterly side of Valentine so students at Taconic aren't walking there, the view obstruction is minor, and there are far more dangerous intersections throughout the city that have rights on red, Simonelli argued.
 
Councilor At Large Peter White lives on Jason Street and travels that road often. He said never understood why that was there and agrees that the intersection hasn't been an issue. Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo has a similarly questioned no turn on red sign in his ward at the intersection of Newell and East Street. He said the only issues there, with heavier traffic, is neighbors have trouble getting out of their driveways if the sign wasn't stopping the flow. But, that's not an issue at West and Valentine, he said.
 
The council approved it unanimously but raised concerns about the process. The Traffic Commission approved it unanimously provided the sightline analysis came back clean. At the meeting, Morales didn't feel there would be an issue and agreed that he'd do the study in time for Tuesday's council's meeting to be able to move the process along. But the results weren't what he initially expected.
 
"My recommendation was to do this evaluation expecting there wouldn't be a problem but that's not what I found," Morales said.
 
Krol felt it was odd that the Traffic Commission would act on it without all of the information. Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell suggested sending it back to Traffic for more discussion but he didn't receive support from other councilors.
 
"I am kind of baffled by the process, how can we have the Traffic Commission approve this unanimously and then the engineer come back with new information?" Krol said.
 
The council also raised a concern about a request from the Police Department to make School Street police parking only - except for one handicapped spot at the corner of School and North Street. The Traffic Commission also approved that but it was never sent to them by the council in the first place - the petition was made directly to traffic. Such petitions are supposed to go to the City Council, which then decides which committee should review it. 
 
That subversion of the council irked some councilors who felt the need to reiterate that petitions must come to them first.
 
The Council also accepted a report on a petition from Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers to put up a no commercial vehicles sign at Westwood Road and Barker Road. The city had a sign there before but it was taken out. The Department of Public Services simply put a new one up when the petition was filed.
 
Councilor At Large Earl Persip also questioned Mayor Linda Tyer on the salary for new Building Commissioner Jeffrey Clemons. Former Commissioner Gerald Garner left to take a similar job in Adams for higher pay. Persip said the city's commissioner has a lot more responsibilities so salaries have to be competitive so the city doesn't lose employees.
 
"I think it is important that we try to bump this up because I don't want to see us trying to find a new building commissioner in two years," Persip said.
 
The salary had been somewhat of a debate during the budget hearings. A few councilors felt it would have been unfair to hire somebody to replace Garner, who had been with the city for a long time, at a higher rate. Tyer, however, did ultimately hire him at more than Garner would have gotten.
 
"I do think he makes a point about compensation being a challenge, especially in building commissioner positions," Tyer said of Persip's concerns and revealed that Clemons is starting at about $73,000 whereas Garner would have been given $70,000 this fiscal year.
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