By Rich Place
The public has spoken and swayed the Erie County Department of Public Works (DPW) against constructing a roundabout at the Genesee Road and Route 240 intersection and instead creating a four-way stop.
The potential decision comes after attendees at a public meeting in early December — as well as those who wrote letters to the DPW offices — voiced opposition to the idea of a roundabout.
“Part of the process is listening to the public and, being public servants, we are supposed to serve the public,” said Charles Sickler, Erie County deputy commissioner of highways. “It was pretty loud and clear that they don’t want a roundabout even though we think it’s probably the better choice.”
Sickler was quick to note, however, that his department still considers a four-way stop as a safer alternative than the current configuration, which has traffic at Genesee Road, as well as nearby Sibley Road, stopping while commuters on Route 240 pass through.
“If the public wanted something that was not safe and would not work then we would not do that,” Sickler said. “A roundabout would work. The stop signs will work.”
Sickler said the county DPW has “pretty much decided” on the four-way stop but he had yet to inform Erie County Legislator John Mills, R-Orchard Park, about the decision. Mills has been out of the area this week and was unavailable for comment.
The decision to improve the intersection came after the Erie County DPW last October announced federal funding had been secured for the study, design and construction of intersection improvements there following a review that spanned three years of traffic reports on the site.
Sickler said a four-way stop scenario would only require installing signage, which he estimated to cost about $900. In 2016, the Erie County DPW reported construction on the selected alternative was anticipated to begin this spring with a budget of $760,000.
“We’ve got a few more zeros to add in there, so we will probably do some road paving” within the bounds of the intersection, Sickler said.
An alternative to a roundabout presented to the public in early December included a four-way stop, but that improvement also included the reconfiguration of Sibley Road to instead intersect Route 240 north of the intersection. This decision by the county keeps Sibley Road with its intersection with Genesee Road, creating a four-way stop at the primary intersection with a stop sign on Sibley Road, as it currently stands, also in the vicinity.
Another option presented at the public meeting in early December was a traffic signal, but it was determined the option was not viable because of the lack of volume of vehicles passing through the intersection. David Askinzai of Clark, Patterson & Lee presented the roundabout option because of the reduction in fatalities at roundabouts, he said, citing federal studies.
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.
However, 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.
Sickler said, in addition to comments from the Dec. 4 meeting, the county DPW received 18 letters concerning the intersection, with 14 of them against a roundabout. Four of those letters against a roundabout came from the East Concord Fire Department on its letterhead, he said.
Sickler said it’s expected the signs will be erected this spring, and that electronic signage must be displayed for 30 days before signs go up to inform commuters of the upcoming changes.
“The all-way stop will work probably just as well,” Sickler said. “Like anything else, if people obey the signage and all, we won’t have a problem. What people do and what we can control is not always what we want.”