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Pittsfield and State Clash Over Causeway Project, Causing Delay
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:38AM / Wednesday, April 03, 2024
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Pittsfield and state can't come to terms on the reconstruction design and cost for Dan Casey Drive. The road's been one lane for some time because of flooding.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city and the state Department of Transportation are clashing over logistics of the Dan Casey Memorial Drive reconstruction, halting its progress.

The Public Works and Utilities subcommittee on Monday heard an update on the project per the request of resident Daniel Miraglia. The often flooded area is the subject of a more than million-dollar reconstruction that includes replacing the causeway's three existing culverts.

Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales reported that the city is "in a sense kind of fighting with the state" about the design. It was supposed to go out to bid in 2022.

"We recognize the need for the culverts and Dan Casey to be reconstructed. We have been working with the state through Chapter 85. It is a required process to have the state approve the design," he said. "At the moment, we have been through five iterations of the review with the state, the last one having received sometime in the fall last year, and we're in the process of regrouping."

He explained that the comments received were "substantial" and the city doesn't have the funds for or agree with them.

"The implications those comments have is what is worrisome and we simply do not have at this moment the capital nor do we think it is the adequate way to proceed," Morales said.

The commissioner has a meeting scheduled with the District One state engineer this week and the city has $500,000 from the state's Small Bridge grant program. Chapter 85 governs the regulations and bylaws of ways of bridges.

"We have requested multiple times the extension of that grant to the state and they have granted it,"

"They basically acknowledged that the city needs money. They acknowledged that process the state is going through, the Chapter 85, is part of the delays and so that's where we stand right now."

Miraglia has concerns about public safety and culvert clogging.

"My biggest concern over the years has been public safety and the condition of the road. I frequently visit and talk with the fishermen because I'm very active in the county with fishing programs and kids programs and stocking and when trout gets stocked on Onota Lake that place is just loaded with kids. So we got cars coming down, water coming over the road, the road collapsing," he said.

"As you know, we have three culverts that are under the road. Two are collapsed the one is pretty much 90 percent clogged up and there's debris in front of that so you don't get the necessary capacity for the water coming through to the other side of the road so becomes problematic. All in all, if you do something to unclog the obstructions and you have that much more water going through that could actually possibly be dangerous also so you need to do something."

Morales said the bridge has been made safe for transportation. Currently, it is reduced to one lane where the flooding occurs with concrete barriers.

"It is a popular destination and I'm going to say right now, some ideas circulating in the community that have been brought to the city are to shut it down completely and have dead ends for fishing operations alone," he reported.

"I don't like that idea simply because the alternatives for moving traffic around Dan Casey Drive are not that great. It’s a big detour."

He clarified that the causeway is inspected yearly and that the load bearing has not been impacted.

Miraglia also submitted a petition to look at design changes for the Elm Street bridge, which was discussed and placed on file. The bridge goes over the Housatonic River and is next to the intersection of East Housatonic Street and Elm Street.

He said that since the road was narrowed there have been issues such as traffic backups and vehicles driving on the sidewalk.

"I’m looking at how do we simplify and do something a little bit differently to bring that road back to safer to drive," he explained.

Morales reported that the design was approved as part of the Complete Streets project and was implemented in November 2021. The program aims to provide safe and accessible options for all travel modes and for people of all ages and abilities.

"The reason that intersection was selected through a public process with the Complete Streets meetings back in 2019 was to do something there at that intersection," he said, explaining that it was seeing about five crashes per year and the changes have reduced the number of accidents.

Since it was completed, there were four crashes total from 2022 to 2023 that were all angled collisions.

"The head-on collisions, rear ends, and T-collisions, that has not occurred since the project and that's the aim is to reduce the severity of collision when they happen," Morales said.

"Collisions are not preventable because we're dealing with people but the reality is that the resultant factors of those collisions are no injuries and they're all as a result of angled or sideswipes."

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