By Rich Place
Attendees at a public hearing Monday met to discuss potential work at the Genesee Road-Route 240 intersection and vocalized opposition to a roundabout there. Instead, they opined for a four-way stop with no change to road configuration in that vicinity.
Following a 20-minute presentation from Clark, Patterson and Lee, an engineering firm hired by the county, members of the public commented for about an hour. About 50 people, many of whom identified with living near the intersection, were in attendance.
Gina Wilkolaski, P.E., traffic safety engineer with Erie County Department of Public Works (DPW), said the public has the opportunity to comment about potential changes to the intersection through the end of the month, when a decision will be made at the county level.
David Askinazi, of Clark, Patterson & Lee, presented four options for the intersection: a roundabout, a traffic signal, a four-way stop that also realigns Sibley Road to intersect Route 240 north of the intersection, and a final option of doing no work there.
The recommendations for the project came following a three-year traffic study that spanned June 2013 to May 2016. A total of 27 accidents took place there during that time period, with 25 being right-angle accidents, Askinazi said. He noted the accident rate of 4.81 accidents per million vehicles is 13.74 times higher than the regional rate of .35 accidents per million vehicles.
The intersection does not warrant a traffic signal, he said, because of the lack of volume of vehicles passing through it. The roundabout option was presented because of the lack of reduction in fatalities at roundabouts, he said, citing federal studies.
“Even if there is an accident, because of the geometry on the approach, the accidents tend to be glancing blows instead of head-on collisions,” Askinazi said. “You might have a fender-bender or you might have property damage, but the fatal accidents are dramatically decreased.”
But following the presentation, the vocal majority spoke out against a roundabout.
Matthew Willibey, a past chief of the East Concord Fire Department, said since larger stop signs and “cross traffic does not stop” signs were installed on Genesee Road at the intersection in November 2016, there has not been a single personal injury accident there.
The study — and the process to acquire funding — to remedy the problems at the intersection began before the signs were installed.
“My opinion, and it’s the opinion of the fire department, I don’t think we need to spend $3 million on a roundabout,” Willibey said, drawing applause from those in attendance. He later added, “What we are on board with — with the town and everybody else — is a safer intersection up here for everybody.”
Of those who spoke up during the meeting, most voicing opposition to the roundabout cited the cost, although it would be paid for 90 percent by federal funding, 7.5 percent by state funds and 2.5 percent by county funds, according to data provided by Askinazi.
“It’s a viable option because we have the room to do it and the accident history and the severity of the accidents, we felt it would be beneficial,” Wilkolaski said about a roundabout. “That’s why it’s carried on to this point.”
The public also voiced concerns about removal of the fire department’s well for construction; commuters sliding through the roundabout, especially from Genesee Road headed west, during inclement weather; tractors and other heavy equipment navigating it; and the impacted construction would have on businesses and the nearby fire department.
In regard to the latter matter, Askinazi said construction at the roundabout would allow for traffic to still navigate the same route. Also of note, the roundabout would be built with malleable curbing, he added, allowing trucks to go up onto the roundabout circle, if necessary.
In the four scenarios formally presented at the meeting, none suggested only installing stop signs along Route 240. The only scenario that did recommend an all-way stop also included rerouting Sibley Road to intersect Route 240 just north of the intersection, eliminating all five roads intersecting so close to each other.
Askinazi said in the study, it was determined some commuters were uncertain if it was necessary to stop twice when pulling out of Sibley Road because of its close proximity to the intersection in the current configuration.
“Sibley (Road) is kind of the problem child here,” added Wilkolaski, “otherwise it would have been a four-way stop a year ago.”
Although it was mentioned multiple times by the public to install stop signs at the intersection first and then, if still warranted, eventually install a more significant change like a roundabout if the problem isn’t remedied, Wilkolaski said the timeline of funding will not allow for it and changes to traffic patterns should not be repeatedly changed.
“If we are going to do an all-way stop, that’s what we are going to do,” she said. “And that’s maybe where this ends up, but we don’t try an all-way stop that is there one day and gone the next because we were just trying it. If we are going to do an all-way stop, it’s going to be an all-way stop.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Wilkolaski said only leaving the intersection’s configuration the same but adding additional stop signs — similar to the changes in the intersection of Genesee Road and Springville-Boston Road just two miles west — is possible.
“The option to do the no-build and have the county come in separate and just put up the stop signs (is) still an option,” she said. “We have not made up our mind. And becoming pretty clear here what the public wants.”
She invited residents to submit their opinions in writing. Letters can be sent this month to: Gina Wilkolaski, Erie County DPW, 95 Franklin St., 14th Floor, Buffalo, NY 14202. A decision is expected to be made at the end of December, she said.