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DOT TO STUDY WAYS TO EASE CONGESTION AT HIGHWAY EXIT LEADING TO NEW STRIP MALL

After months of worrying about the traffic jams expected to follow the opening of Boulevard Consumer Square, a strip mall under construction on Niagara Falls Boulevard, Town of Tonawanda officials finally have received news that does not have them frowning.

In an effort to ease congestion, the state Department of Transportation is considering changing an exit off the Youngmann Expressway that is expected to be a major route for reaching the shopping plaza, a town official said Monday.

Town Board Member Bill Miller said he received a letter recently from DOT's regional traffic engineer, James Barnack, informing the town that an engineering study on how to improve the exit is being undertaken.

The Niagara Falls Boulevard exit is expected to have to handle thousands more cars a day once the 550,000-square-foot strip mall opens.

Drivers coming off the exit from the eastbound expressway lanes have to cross three lanes of traffic on the boulevard -- almost immediately -- to make the left turn on Ridge Lea Road in order to get to the mall.

"It's a little dangerous," said Miller.

He said he and other Tonawanda officials have been hounding DOT for months to fix the problem, but "we were told there wasn't a problem."

In the last few days, though, DOT appears to have had a change of heart, Miller told board members during Monday night's regular meeting.

"Hopefully it will lead to alleviating the problem," Supervisor Carl Calabrese said.

Boulevard Consumer Square has been a headache for the Town of Tonawanda for months. Although it is being built on the Amherst side of Niagara Falls Boulevard, Tonawanda officials and residents in adjacent neighborhoods are worried that runoff will overwhelm the area's only drainage ditch.

That issue appears close to being resolved, but Tonawanda is still concerned about the amount of traffic on its streets created by the project.

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