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Taconic Avenue parents to drivers: Slow Down!

It is a particularly nasty stretch. There are several intersections, so amid speeding cars are those that also slow down to make turns onto streets or into driveways. It is a hair-raising area in which to be on foot due to both high speeds and low visibility from a curve to the north — just before the Castle Street intersection -- that often features cars barreling down the hill from Alford Road, making crossing the street dangerous.

Great Barrington — Fed up with cars speeding cars along a treacherous section between two bends on Taconic Avenue, and for several years weighing traffic calming solutions, residents near the Taconic and Castle Street intersection got themselves some “slow down, kids live here,” lawn signs. The speed limit on Taconic Avenue is 25 mph. Few drivers observe it.

The speed limit on Taconic Avenue is 25 mph, a rate that few drivers observe.
The speed limit on Taconic Avenue is 25 mph, a rate that few drivers observe. Photo: Heather Bellow

According to Dana Coleman, who with two other residents, acquired the signs, several residents of the area have been meeting with town officials for more than three years to come with solutions to what occasionally feels like a drag racing strip. It was “the recent near miss of two children by a silver pick-up truck,” that drove them to act, Coleman says. She wrote an email to the HillGB email group to tell neighbors about the signs, and offered to order more, including blank signs that children can decorate themselves.

Apparently, the town’s back roads and bypasses are seeing more traffic, “With the onset of Main Street Reconstruction [Project],” Coleman observed, adding that a town official “has assured us that the crosswalks we requested (primarily along Castle), will be painted soon.”

Indeed, Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said that “the Town will be painting several new crosswalks and additional markings on the street to make it safer for pedestrians. I don’t have an exact date yet, but it will be done when we do the rest of the street line paintings around Town, because that is when we have the truck and paint set up.”

Coleman also wrote that residents “hope to put more traffic calming/pedestrian-friendly measures in place in the near future,” and are seeking other ideas to solve a dangerous problem.

It is a particularly nasty stretch. There are several intersections, so amid speeding cars are those that also slow down to make turns onto streets or into driveways. It is a hair-raising area in which to be on foot due to both high speeds and low visibility from a curve to the north — just before the Castle Street intersection — that often features cars barreling down the hill from Alford Road, making crossing the street dangerous. A large wooden fence installed at the edge of that curve about 4 or 5 years ago made visibility matters worse, said one resident who wished to remain anonymous; there has been at least one accident as a result, and many near misses.

The view to west, up Taconic Avenue, where, residents report, cars often accelerate. Photo: David Scribner
The view to west, up Taconic Avenue, where, residents report, cars often accelerate. Photo: David Scribner

It is no picnic to be behind the wheel on that stretch, either.  It’s a  dense residential zone and there’s a visibility problem near the Castle Street intersection.

Last year Great Barrington Police put a speed calculator on the side of the road; one resident said that it helped.

It has even been difficult to find a safe schoolbus stop, though residents have finally negotiated a stop at Taconic and Barrington Place/Oak Street.

“I do get nervous waiting for the bus at that intersection,” said Barrington Place resident Rebecca Gold. “Not only do cars speed downhill, but many speed up as they turn onto Barrington, as if they need extra power to make the hill.”

Gold says the whole of Taconic is chancy. “I also worry sometimes that I’m being foolish walking down Taconic with my kids as cars fly down alongside us. It’s not like the sidewalk provides any kind of protection.”

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