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Since the 1950s, maps of Amherst have illustrated what planners have had in mind for Youngs Road for decades -- a direct, limited-access link between the southern and northern parts of town.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Youngs was extended in stages for more than three miles, from Sheridan Drive to Casey Road.

Now, the town is poised to finish the job by extending Youngs another three-quarters of a mile to North French Road where New Road comes in from the north.

Construction could occur as early as next year if all goes according to plan, town officials said Tuesday. The Town Board tentatively selected the alignment option it prefers Monday, and meetings with Erie County officials are next.

Board members Monday indicated a preference for the "North French Alternative," a $3.7 million project that takes Youngs directly to the intersection of North French and Dodge roads, with Dodge ending in a cul-de-sac just short of the intersection.

The new cul-de-sac would maintain access to six homes, with a new connection built between Youngs and the cut-off portion of Dodge.

The Town Board joined the Planning Department staff and Pratt & Huth Associates, consultants, in favoring the option over the "Dodge Road Alternative," with its estimated cost of $2.6 million. In this design, Youngs would curve northwest to join Dodge southwest of its intersection with North French.

Officials said a sanitary sewer construction project will add $1.4 million to the overall cost, regardless of which road design is chosen.

The completion of the northerly extension of Youngs will connect the densely populated southeast section of Amherst with the fast-developing but still semi-rural northeast.

Six thousand residents of Ransom Oaks and the surrounding area now must use Dodge and then Casey to get to Youngs. Consequently, much of the north-south traffic that Youngs could handle uses Hopkins and Transit roads instead, officials say.

If congestion on Hopkins -- which becomes Evans Street and Garrison Road in Williamsville -- isn't relieved, pressure will grow for it to be widened, even though it is primarily residential, according to planners.

According to a project report released this week, "It is in the town's interest to reduce the potential for future widening (of Hopkins).

"Any opportunity to defer or prevent the need for additional travel lanes will help preserve real estate values and the quality of life for these property owners and residents," the report states.

Preliminary data from a 1995 townwide traffic study identifies three "overcapacity" intersections on Hopkins -- at Klein Road, at Maple Road and at Sheridan Drive.

Youngs -- safer because of its limited access -- represents a potential pressure valve for Hopkins.

Unlike Hopkins, curb cuts for subdivision streets and private driveways along Youngs are restricted by local law, decreasing what planners call "conflict points" with motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

There are more than 240 curb cuts on Hopkins-Evans, between Main Street and North French Road, while the comparable stretch of Youngs has 45, planners report.

Town officials say the advantages of the currently favored North French design option include:

Safest, most direct, fastest route.

Better intersection design.

Doesn't require the creation of a new signalized intersection across from the Dodge Road Elementary School and playground, creating pedestrian-crossing problems and a potential traffic delay.

Will handle future traffic more efficiently and, in the long run, at a cheaper cost because less in the way of traffic improvements will be needed as north Amherst develops.

The main drawbacks of the North French design are its initial cost -- about 30 percent more than the Dodge Road Alternative -- and the need to take up to three more occupied homes on the east side of Dodge for construction, officials report.

"The Dodge Road Alternative will generally achieve the desired objective of linking Youngs Road to North French Road and New Road, but not as safely or as efficiently" as the preferred option, according to a project report by town planners.

"It creates a second intersection along the north-south route across from the east driveway to the Dodge Road school. This intersection also creates a potential traffic delay. Southbound traffic, the predominant direction moves during the morning rush hour, is forced to make a left turn across Dodge Road to continue south.

"If the objective of building the Youngs Road Extension is to improve north-south traffic flow, it is questionable to build a design that could disrupt that objective," the report says.

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