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RESIDENTS SAY NEW TOPS ON DELAWARE SPELLS DANGER

Year by year, residents along Delaware Road in the Town of Tonawanda have watched the problem get worse:

First, big facilities -- such as the town's Aquatic and Fitness Center -- went up, drawing hundreds of cars daily. Then, area roadwork made the road a popular shortcut for motorists looking to avoid traffic snarls and gain easy access to the Youngmann Highway.

Now, plans are under way for a new Tops supermarket in the neighborhood, meaning lots of new delivery trucks, plus even more cars full of shoppers.

All this will be in an area where hordes of children walk to and from nearby schools every day.

"Everybody's being put in jeopardy," said Judi Klarowski, who owns a home near the busy intersection of Delaware and Thorncliff roads. "We've already had one crossing guard killed at this intersection. What more does it take?"

Town officials, who have approved plans for the new Tops, said the store's trucks won't be allowed to use Delaware Road. The trucks will instead use Delaware Avenue and a short "stub end" of Thorncliff between Delaware Avenue and Delaware Road, they said.

But residents -- including some who recently banded together to form the North Delaware Neighborhood Association -- have doubts whether the trucks will stick to those routes.

Sam Forlenza, a member of the two-month-old group, said residents aren't opposed to Tops, but they do want the town to get control of traffic in the area.

"That intersection at Delaware and Thorncliff, without a doubt, is the most dangerous of the intersections along Delaware Road," Forlenza said.

It was at that spot, in 1985, that a school crossing guard was killed while on duty, town police confirmed.

"A lot of it has to do with Delaware Road being 'discovered' as an alternative route to Delaware Avenue. Sometimes Delaware Road is just an on-ramp to the (Youngmann)," Forlenza said. "We are by no means about stopping Tops. We want Tops to come, but we want it to be incorporated intelligently into the community."

This week, residents' concerns were backed by School Board member Alan MacGamwell, who has lived on Delaware Road since the early 1950s.

MacGamwell said that even though new policies in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District mean that all children in kindergarten through fifth grade are being bused to school starting this fall, there are still questions about the safety of older students walking in the area.

"There are still going to be kids walking there. They have after-school activities, they have all kinds of things," MacGamwell said. "Even before anything happens (with Tops), that's one of the most crucial and most dangerous corners in the town. A lot of screeching of brakes goes on there."

Town Supervisor Carl J. Calabrese said he will look into the traffic problems -- even though, he said, the special routing of Tops trucks will keep them from affecting residential streets.

Plus, Calabrese said, Tops has agreed to a host of improvements that should improve the situation: a new traffic light on Delaware Road at the exit of the Aquatic & Fitness Center and a new left-turn arrow on the light at Delaware Road and Sheridan Drive.

MacGamwell said those improvements are fine, but further study of the area should be done.

"Everyone will feel terrible if we make an assumption that doesn't work, and then something happens," he said.

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