Fate of Main Street turning lane shrouded in mystery

Great Barrington continues to grow. The town that the Smithsonian called the “Best Small Town in America” is exactly that.

We all know that each town and city in the Berkshires has its own character and Great Barrington certainly is the hub of the Southern Berkshires. It charges a lot of taxes. On the other hand, we have fantastic restaurants, a fine hospital, an excellent fire department and a large police department, which could be doing better work slowing down traffic on the way to Lake Mansfield.

We are just emerging from a total reconstruction of Main Street. All the merchants with whom I have been speaking are marveling at the courtesy and professionalism of the people who are doing the building. That’s the good news.

But there are some puzzling pieces of the reconstruction. When you are driving south on Main Street just before you get to Taconic Avenue and the CVS on the far side of the street, there has always been a right turn lane that takes you up the hill and enables the through traffic to flow.

When the whole reconstruction project was commencing, there seemed to be a difference of opinion as to whether or not that right hand turn lane would remain. Different people told me different things. For all of you who live in North County or the Pittsfield area, you might say, “So what? No big deal.” In fact, it is a big deal because the absence of a right turning lane will leave southbound traffic on Route 7 in a state of FUBAR (Fouled up beyond all recognition) or something like that.

I recently asked one selectman whether or not we would have that crucial right turn lane and was told that the fight over the lane had been lost and we would not have that delicious right to bypass the long line of waiting cars.

But I recently met up with the town manager at the great white dinner, sponsored to support the merchants of Great Barrington in their time of reconstruction need, and asked her the same question. She gave me a different answer, to wit, that the right turn lane would be preserved. On the way home the other night it sure looked like the third lane had disappeared and that whatever space there formerly was is gone.

So, someone has it wrong. I hope it’s the selectman but somehow, I get the feeling that all those people who live on Great Barrington’s Hill or who are trying to get to Lake Mansfield are going to have to live with a bad situation.

It’s a little thing like this that gives engineers, planners and government officials a bad reputation.

On another Great Barrington local issue, there is a plan to basically demolish the old Searles Middle School, preserve the footprint and build a 95 room luxury hotel and conference center in the middle of the town.

This is a win-win for the Great Barrington. It will be good for the town merchants, including our myriad restaurants and shops. Unfortunately, it may contradict a town bylaw limiting the number of rooms a hotel can have.

The proposed owners of the property, Vijay and Crystal Mahida, are up to the task and have hired one of the town’s most accomplished and connected lawyers to help make it happen.

It should be pointed out that the lawyer’s father is the town moderator and an important town honcho. What we do not need is a monstrosity that does not reflect the historic nature of the town.

One can only expect that there will be those who do not want to see this sensible improvement happen because such people always emerge to fight almost anything based on the philosophical notion that “We object because we can.”

It would be nice if just for once something was easy.

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