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Main Street stays five lanes for now

The notion of eliminating two lanes on Main Street in Williamsville -- one of the region's most congested commuter corridors -- has been put on hold as officials look for less radical ways to reclaim the street for pedestrians.

Shrinking the village's stretch of Main Street from the current five lanes to three, as had been discussed earlier, would cause "significantly greater congestion," according to a draft report on the remaking of Main Stree.

"We just want to take back ownership of our streets," said Mayor Mary Lowther. "Anything we can do is a good thing, for everyone."

Among the ideas being considered:

* Dotting the turning lane with medians, making it all but impossible to use that lane as a way to speed through the village without dealing with traffic in the other lanes.

That happens frequently, Lowther said. Drivers also use the turning lane for illegal U-turns, she said.

Medians would be especially helpful to pedestrians, too, she said.

* Installing isles adjacent to crosswalks, known as "bulb outs," that increase the space for pedestrians as they wait at the curb, reducing the expanse of road to cross.

Geary said the bulb outs can extend as far as street parking, allowing pedestrians to see past parked cars and also shortening the distance of their crossing.
* Put in "textured" crosswalks, which have a slightly jarring effect on motorists and tend to prompt them to slow down. Crossing guards are under consideration.

A public hearing on the plan, crafted after two years of study by a special community-planning committee, is scheduled for Dec. 4 in the Williamsville South High School auditorium, 5950 Main St. A public information session will be held at 6 p.m. followed by the public hearing at 7.

Village officials started talking about eliminating lanes on Main Street a couple of years ago, hoping drivers would find other routes or at least be persuaded to drive more safely. Main Street (Route 5), however is a state road, and therefore the approval of the state Department of Transportation would have been required. And DOT officials were skeptical.

Main Street has been a source of increasing frustration in the village. Back in its heyday -- circa 1950 -- Main was only three lanes and used mostly by the locals.

Then the Amherst building boom hit, and Main Street turned into a commuter corridor so crowded it routinely exceeds capacity and averages 750 vehicles per hour per lane in the village.

Geary says if the Williamsville Toll Barrier is eventually removed, that would eliminate a significant number of vehicles whose drivers avoid the toll by taking Main.

He also is pushing for an exit ramp from the Thruway at Youngs Road and for expanding the two-lane road. That would give drivers alternatives, he said.


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