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PANEL DOWNPLAYS EFFECT OF BROADWAY THRUWAY RAMP

Adding a Thruway on-and-off ramp at Broadway in Cheektowaga is still a topic of discussion these days, but a ramp there may not have the impact some would think.

Elected officials in July proposed the concept to the Thruway Authority as a way to alleviate traffic on heavily traveled William Street.

But a Broadway ramp likely would have little effect on William Street congestion; and, in fact, it may have no impact at all, according to Niagara Frontier Transportation Committee projections of the scenario.

"To simply put (a Broadway ramp) in today with the idea of reducing traffic on William may not necessarily work," said Robert D. Miller, a transportation analyst with the NFTC.

Each day there are about 34,000 vehicles that travel William Street between the Thruway's William Street interchange and Union Road, according to NFTC traffic counts.

Although a new Thruway ramp would likely increase daily Broadway traffic from 16,000 to about 20,000, the traffic numbers on William would stay about the same, according to the NFTC's analysis. "It's almost the same with or without the ramps on Broadway," Miller added.

The reason, some say, is because so many Cheektowaga, Lancaster and Elma motorists use the William Street-Union Road-Losson Road corridor as an easy connection to and from the Thruway's William Street interchange. Using Broadway would only take motorists out of their way.

Traffic has increased dramatically since the 1992 opening of the Thruway's William Street interchange, leaving William street residents and motorists crying for relief. Elected officials have been searching for some solutions, the Broadway-ramp proposal being one.

Assemblyman Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, who is spearheading the new interchange proposal, realizes this isn't a long-range solution, particularly if Erie County's eastern suburbs continue to grow.

But Tokasz feels a Broadway interchange, one similar in design to the Thruway's Cleveland Drive exit, will help get vehicles off William. The option will at least be there for motorists.

Tokasz recently met on the Broadway issue with officials from the NFTC, the Thruway Authority, Erie County, the state Department of Transportation, as well as Cheektowaga and Lancaster. The parties agreed to investigate the issue further.

They hope to meet again with rough ramp designs and cost estimates. Future development plans for Broadway also will be considered to get a better handle on traffic projections.

"Certainly if a new interchange is warranted we're open to that," said Ernest J. Scarozza an engineer with the Thruway Authority. "If not, we don't need an interchange that won't do any good."

Cheektowaga officials feel the Broadway ramp is needed whether it has a major impact on William Street traffic or not.

Not only will it provide motorists with an option to avoid William street congestion, but it will be needed for the traffic expected to come with anticipated Broadway development, said Councilman Thomas M. Johnson Jr.

A warehouse and office park already are being planned for the south side of Broadway between the Thruway and Kennedy Road, he said. Nearly 200 acres of railroad property also is being eyed for development.

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