Grand Islanders have long agreed: getting out of the parking lot of the Tops market, the town's only major supermarket, can be downright hazardous.
Now -- in the wake of a recent fatality at the site -- Town Board members have decided the time is right to do something about traffic patterns in the dangerous area.
The Town Board has decided to petition the state Department of Transportation to eliminate all "right-on-red" turns from eastbound Whitehaven Road onto southbound Grand Island Boulevard, the major intersection nearest the supermarket.
According to board members, restricting the right turns will open up a longer window of time for motorists waiting to exit the Tops parking lot to pull onto the busy Grand Island Boulevard.
Residents think it's a good idea -- and one that's been a long time coming.
"We've lived on Grand Island about five years, and there's been a number of accidents on Grand Island Boulevard right in that area there," said Joan Burns of Bedell Road. "I think anything that would help that intersection is good."
Ms. Burns said another way to solve the problem might be to open up another entrance and exit road into the Tops plaza, which currently is limited to the boulevard entrance only.
"It's unfortunate there's only one entrance onto the street from Tops," she said. "Drivers are a lot more careless than they used to be. . . . Grand Island Boulevard, people go along there pretty fast, and people don't pay attention to speed limits the way they used to."
According to Councilman Michael E. Heftka, the Town Board's liaison to the Traffic Safety Advisory Committee and the sponsor of the resolution to petition the state DOT, cutting off all "right-on-red" turns at the intersection will provide the necessary break in traffic for vehicles leaving the parking lot and will "create a safer environment for persons traveling on Grand Island Boulevard."
Town Board members this week agreed, unanimously approving the proposal. The board's action comes slightly more than a month after Gregory S. Hudson, a 32-year-old Towerwood Road resident, was killed while driving his motorcycle southbound on Grand Island Boulevard on Aug. 12.
According to sheriff's deputies, Hudson saw a car in front of him attempting to pull out of the Tops parking lot and tried to avoid hitting it, but was unable to slow down sufficiently and ended up striking the vehicle. He died shortly after being transported to Kenmore Mercy Hospital.
Town Clerk Nancy Samrany said she remembers the accident -- which occurred near the Town Hall, also located on Grand Island Boulevard -- and thinks the restriction on right turns in the area is a good idea.
"(The fatality) really had to do with exiting Tops market and how long you have to wait there," Ms. Samrany said. "This is a small thing, but it will help a little."