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DEBATE PERSISTS ON FATE OF TOLL BARRIER

Sharon Herschberger of Pembroke lives mere yards from the New York State Thruway near the Erie-Genesee County line and can barely tolerate the din from traffic whizzing by at 55 to 70 mph.

She is convinced her fortunes would not be significantly improved should the Thruway Authority decide to dismantle the Williamsville toll barrier and move it and hundreds of idling vehicles closer to her home in the country.

That is among the ideas being considered by the authority to relieve long-standing traffic tie-ups at the toll interchange.

But the noise volume from idling trucks and cars probably pales in comparison to the din of voices raised in opposition to the plan by Herschberger and about 500 residents who might be affected.

"I moved to the country to get away from the sounds of the city, and now you want to bring it to me? No sir," said Herschberger, as the crowd cheered her on during a open meeting Wednesday in Corfu Fire Hall.

Other residents from Corfu, Newstead and Alden echoed her sentiments and added a few of their own concerns about what the authority might do. How it proceeds is dependent, to a degree, on the questions raised Wednesday by residents, said Christopher A. Waite, director of the Thruway Authority's Office of Design.

"Tonight we're bringing everybody up to speed on where we are," said Waite, who was joined in facilitating the session by Ronald J. Klinczar, the consultant project manager hired by the authority.

At a meeting last month, Thruway Authority officials said it would likely be more than a year before a decision was made on whether to relocate the Williamsville toll barrier.

Klinczar said the authority is also considering keeping the toll barrier where it is, with some mitigating modifications, or leaving it alone.

Thruway Authority officials presented residents design drawings of alternative locations for the toll barrier, giving
each a preliminary rating based on currently known environmental impact and engineering advantages, narrowing it down to three top sites.

Both Waite and Klinczar stressed that a full environmental impact statement would have to be prepared before a final alternative is presented.

"This thing could be isolated from communities," said Waite. "There are some areas along this corridor where it's not very dense, and our impacts are minimal. That would be the place to locate a barrier if that would be the way we choose to go. It's not a given yet that we are going to move the barrier. There is the possibility of working on the one where it is."

It was that proposal that seemed most suitable to residents at Wednesday's meeting.

Some questioned why the authority would seek to move the Williamsville toll interchange after spending $2 million on concrete soundproofing barriers. Others raised the effect moving the toll barrier farther northeast of Williamsville to the Genesee County line would have on traffic generated from concerts and other events at Six Flags Darien Lake.

Ray Zwolinski recently relocated from Buffalo's East Side to Pembroke. He questioned why the authority doesn't eliminate the toll barrier altogether.

He noted that the authority shifted gears in attempting to raise Thruway tolls after a public outcry last year.

"I think there's a lot of audacity trying to keep that in place and then trying to spend that money to try affect the people where it is less populous, that being the rural areas," said Zwolinski.

Others also suggested the authority was attempting to pursue the path of least resistance.

"We're not stupid farmers out here," said Dan Parzych of Corfu. "It doesn't take a genius to figure where the Williamsville (toll) plaza will go."

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