Public speaks against Routes 20 & 60 project
Local supporters of New York state’s proposed two-lane roundabout project at the Routes 20 and 60 intersection seem few and far between.
Several dozen people crammed Fredonia Village Hall’s Trustees Room Wednesday for a public hearing on the matter, and no one voiced their approval. The primary argument against the project revolved around the installation of raised medians that would approach the intersection on all four sides, thereby eliminating left turns into adjacent businesses or onto the roadway.
“This is insanity; it’s foolish,” Fredonia attorney Daryl Brautigam told project officials. “You’re doing (this) at a tremendous human cost and a financial cost to several businesses that I represent or patronize that are located at or near this intersection. What you will do … will be forcing traffic in ways that are more damaging than what you’re trying to avoid. Someone exiting The Paper Factory, for instance, will have to go east on Route 20 and somehow make a U-turn to come back to the village of Fredonia. They will not be allowed to go to the traffic circle because of the median that’s in the middle of the road. You’re going to cause more accidents with this proposed plan than you’re ever going to avoid.”
Brautigam pointed out the local economy in the Fredonia area is fragile and is smarting in the wake of massive job losses. Eliminating left-turn access to the businesses would result in even more layoffs and empty properties, he asserted.
“It’ll be easy for the traffic to get through there if you do what you say because there’s going to be desolation and no businesses anywhere on that strip,” he added.
Bruce Mulkin, owner of Paper Factory, noted the current traffic light is vital to his business since it temporarily halts drivers who then look around and see his sign. With a roundabout and a constant flow of traffic, the business will suffer since no one will take the time to look around anymore, he said.
“Now, with a median, my business is going to be gone,” he told project officials. “I can’t fathom, even during the construction phase, us being viable to stay around.”
Sanjay Singh, assistant regional design engineer for the state Department of Transportation and Routes 20 and 60 project manager, explained the intersection has been flagged due to an above-average number of accidents that occur there. Between Dec. 1, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2013, over 100 accidents have taken place at the intersection and its four approaches — 41 at the intersection and 61 along the approaches. Fifty-four of the 61 accidents in the approaches are attributed to motorists entering or exiting the adjacent driveways by way of a left turn.
A roundabout would drastically lower the number of accidents by reducing the amount of possible collision points, Singh stated. It would also shorten travel times during high-traffic periods and improve air quality.
“What we have is a conceptual plan … to address safety at this intersection,” he said. “The safest movement at an intersection is a right turn, as compared to a left turn or heading straight on through. Imagine an intersection where the only way you can get in and get out is a right turn. That’s essentially what a roundabout is. We will have to have a raised median if we want to cut down the type of accidents that are appearing at the driveways.”
Brautigam wasn’t buying it, however.
“You are playing with people’s financial investments they’ve made in businesses there and you’re going to take them away solely for the purposes of supposedly saving 30 or 40 fender benders over three years,” he remarked.
Several people argued that lowering the area’s speed limit and putting in right-turn lanes on all four intersection legs would work just as well as — if not better than — putting in a roundabout and raised medians. Singh addressed that by saying he would bring the idea of a speed study to the attention of the Traffic and Safety Department.
Construction is estimated at $3.35 million, with 90 percent of that paid through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program and 10 percent paid through state-dedicated funds.
Singh said he would take Wednesday’s public comments back to the state DOT for consideration as the project design progresses. The project is expected to be finalized this summer, with construction beginning in the fall and ending in the fall of 2018.
Anyone still wishing to provide comments on the project may do so by Dec. 23 by writing to Frank P. Cirillo, Regional Director, Region 5, New York State Department of Transportation, 100 Seneca St., Buffalo, NY 14203, Attn: S. Singh, P.E. The project identification number is 5812.72.
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