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Hamburg seeks Route 5 'gateway'

Any significant changes to Route 5 in Hamburg are apparently still years off, but Town Councilwoman Kathy Hochul wants to spend $400,000 in federal money on projects to convince drivers they should slow down as they enter the area.

The improvements could include lighting, signs, brick crossings and "streetscaping" to indicate to drivers that they're entering a residential area as they travel south from Woodlawn into the Big Tree and Hoover road areas.

"It will allow us to create gateway features at what we consider the entryway to the Lake Shore community," said Hochul. "We're trying to work with the DOT [state Department of Transportation] to come up with a creative and attractive entryway into our community that signals you're now entering a community, slow down, adjust your driving behavior."

The speed limit on Route 5 goes from 55 mph to 45 to 40 through that area.

"What we need to do is get an outside consultant to help us firm up that vision, to put it on paper," Hochul said. "So we can take it back to the DOT. We want to work with them on that."

The issue of traffic calming for Route 5 has been a source of friction in Hamburg since it was the subject of a study in 1998. The DOT is talking about 2010 as a potential target date for its next major work, Hamburg officials said.

In 2004, the DOT experimented by temporarily restriping the road, reducing it to one lane westward and creating a left-turn lane. Some residents liked it, but an overwhelming outpouring of opposition from commuters convinced the DOT to go back to the old configuration.

This project isn't about restriping or restructuring the road, Hochul said; it's about playing on the psychology of drivers.

"If they sense they're entering a new area, people tend to slow down on their own," she said.

The Town Board issued a request for proposals Monday for architectural and engineering consultants to help prepare the concept plan. The planning cost is projected at $20,000 or less, with the town paying 20 percent of the total.

The federal money is part of the transportation bill of 2005, which authorized $286 billion in spending over six years. Of that, $102 million is projected for Western New York.

The Hamburg project is being handled through Rep. Brian M. Higgins' office, part of $42 million committed to his 27th Congressional District. Higgins is a Buffalo Democrat.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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