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More Niagara Falls Blvd. lights eyed after 5 pedestrian deaths

Additional street lighting is being planned for a stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard north of I-290 where five pedestrians have been killed by cars since June 2013 and a woman was injured while crossing Wednesday morning, officials said.

"Everybody recognizes there's a need for additional lighting in that stretch," said James Hartz, director of the Town of Tonawanda's Office of Planning and Development, on Wednesday.

The towns of Tonawanda and Amherst are in the early stages of working with the state Department of Transportation and National Grid to install more street lights along both sides of the boulevard, which forms a border between the towns.

Adding street lights is seen as a way to improve traffic safety during non-daylight hours, when most of the pedestrians killed have been struck while crossing the five-lane road. With more lights, motorists would be better able to see any pedestrians who might be crossing mid-block or against a traffic light in a crosswalk, Hartz said.

The five pedestrians killed were hit by cars at around 5 a.m., 5:43 a.m., 6:40 a.m., 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Police said at least three of the accident victims were crossing Niagara Falls Boulevard to get to bus stops. Some of the pedestrians were wearing dark clothing during non-daylight hours. At least two were crossing against a traffic light. One woman was not in a crosswalk when she was struck by a car.

[Related: Pedestrians beware: 5 killed on stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard in 3 years]

Power lines currently run along the boulevard's west side in the Town of Tonawanda, which would make installation of new lights easier on those wooden poles, Hartz said. Amherst doesn't have that infrastructure. Engineers are working on the design, exact number of new lights and cost estimates.

The DOT's role is to assist the towns with possibly securing federal highway safety funds, said Susan S. Surdej, the DOT's regional public information officer.

"DOT does not own any street lighting, and both towns are aware that lighting is a local responsibility," she said by email. "I believe that Tonawanda is looking to lease lighting through National Grid, in which case, leasing would not be eligible for federal safety funds. Amherst is apparently interested in installing and owning lighting thru a contract using federal safety funds. DOT is working with Amherst to guide them in project development for installation of lighting."

Meanwhile, a joint report by the towns on the entire boulevard corridor's future is nearing completion, now that it can include a plan for a Metro Rail extension that will take trains onto a portion of the boulevard. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pledged state support for the extension last month.

The draft report will make traffic safety recommendations for the DOT to consider if the boulevard is redesigned, Hartz said.

"We're going to include some additional recommendations on some zoning law changes to accommodate the higher density growth that's sure to come with having a Metro Rail line right outside your front door," he said. "Our zoning laws need to be tweaked a little bit to prepare for that type of development. It's down the road but we need to start preparing for that now."

Woman, 22, struck on Niagara Falls Blvd. at same spot of fatality in August

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