By Tony Dobrowolski
The Berkshire Eagle
LANESBOROUGH – Do you recall what the old Route 7-Route 8 Connector Road was like – the undulating pavement and the potholes? The “ker-thunk, ker-thunk” of the car while driving the road between Route 7 and the Berkshire Mall?
This morning at 8:30, when the detour signs and Jersey barriers are pulled away from the Route 7 entrance, chalk those days up to memories. The road reopens today after a seven-month long reconstruction.
Don’t expect an opening ceremony, just smooth driving.
“We’re going to let the troops just roll,” said Mark Ringie, a construction engineer for the state Department of Transportation in Lenox.
The connector road has been closed between Route 7 and the Mall Ring Road since April 19.
The reconstruction of the connector road between Route 7 and the Ring Road is the second phase of the four-part $6.3 million project that includes the reconstruction of the entire road between routes 7 and 8. The first two phases have been completed about a month ahead of schedule.
The first phase – the construction of a ramp road between Partridge Road and the current detour from Summer Street in Lanesborough – was completed before work on the second phase began this spring.
The third phase – the removal of the ramp road and the repaving of Partridge Road – is scheduled to begin on Thursday and be completed by the end of the construction season, Ringie said.
Work on the fourth and final phase, connecting the reconstructed section to the Route 8 portion, will begin in the spring. The construction contract calls for the entire project to be completed by August 2011.
The construction contract with Stow-based E.T.& L. Corp. also called for the first two phases to be completed by Nov. 15. If those sections weren’t completed by then, the contractor would have faced financial penalties.
But Ringie said on Tuesday the contract also called for E.T.& L. to receive an incentive payment if the first two phases were completed before the required date.
“With the road closed to traffic, they put a lot of people on that project,” Ringie said. “Without having to worry about access and traffic, they worked some long hours and Saturdays. They pushed to get it done.”
During the reconstruction of phase two, Ringie said construction crews did more work than expected on material located underneath the existing roadbed and ran into drainage issues that involved “a lot of underground water.”
"Drivers won’t notice a difference in the alignment of the road,” said Ringie. “But it’s a well-constructed road compared to what it was before.”
Mark Seigars, the chairman of the Baker Hill Road District Working Group, the organization that has jurisdiction over the road, said the opening of the road between Route 7 and the mall should revitalize retail businesses in that area.
“I honestly believe that this will reinvigorate the whole commercial retail sector in Dalton, Pittsfield and Lanesborough,” Seigars said. “It will be a real stimulus to get things going again.”
Reopening the road will also eliminate truck traffic along the detour route through Summer Street in Lanesborough, Seigars said.
“This project is a central component of the regional transportation system and a vital link between Route 7 and 8,” said Berkshire Mall General Manager Joseph Scelsi in a written statement.
“I am happy to see the entire road reopened in time for the busy 2010 holiday shopping season and sincerely appreciate the hard work of all involved,” he said.