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State to outline plans for roundabout at Pleasant-Conz streets intersection in Northampton

— State transportation officials at a public hearing Wednesday night will unveil plans to fix the dangerous Pleasant-Conz intersection by constructing a new roundabout.

City and state officials for years have eyed improvements to one of the city’s busiest and most hazardous intersections, which over the last decade has experienced a crash rate nearly double the state average, according to an engineer’s study completed in 2011.

The solution is to convert the intersection into a single-lane roundabout similar to one on Route 9 in front of Look Park, according to plans state Department of Transportation engineers will present tonight.

The intersection has no traffic signals and is controlled by a stop sign for the Conz Street approach.

The hearing — the only time state officials will take comment from the public about the project — is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building. Plans will be on display starting at 6:30 p.m., and state officials said they will review and consider comments given at the hearing as the design process moves ahead. The design is currently one-fourth complete.

The state has already made changes to its preliminary design based on meetings with business and property owners and other people directly affected by the project, said Ned Huntley, director of Northampton’s Department of Public Works.

The most significant of those changes is elimination of an extra “slip lane” on the south side of Conz Street to make it easier for cars turning right onto Pleasant Street.

A double-lane roundabout in that area would have meant considerable land taking, including up to the front door of a doctor’s office at 163 Conz St. Huntley said some officials also worried that people would use the extra lane to speed onto Pleasant Street.

“The state agreed to drop the slip lane,” Huntley said. “There were too many vehicle conflicts and sizeable land takings.”

Plans call for the single-lane roundabout to have a truck apron surrounding a landscaped area in its center, as well as pedestrian and wheelchair ramps, crosswalks, sidewalks and bus pullouts.

The state-funded project is expected to cost $1.4 million, though that figure does not include right-of-way land takings the state will need to make. Huntley said the takings under the proposed plan will amount to “slivers” of land.

The state estimates it will put the project out to bid in the fall of 2015, with the year-long construction project beginning the following spring.

The state for years has wanted to turn over control of a section of Pleasant Street from about Holyoke Street to the Easthampton town line to the city, something the city would not consider until the state improves the intersection, Huntley said.

The intersection is one of the most traveled in the city. According to recent traffic studies, some 22,000 vehicles use the south side of Pleasant each day, followed by 13,000 using the north side of Pleasant and 9,000 using Conz.

Engineers analyzed six alternatives to dealing with the traffic problems at the intersection: four roundabout variations, installation of traffic signals and an unsignalized intersection similar to what exists now.

It would be the city’s second roundabout, with a third one also in the works for another dangerous intersection at North King and Hatfield streets.

Legacy Comments1

BTW, the FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ).

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