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GALLERIA EXPANSION PLANS NEARING BOARD ACTION

With work scheduled to start in the spring, plans for a $70 million expansion at Walden Galleria should be ready for the Cheektowaga Town Board to act on next month, a top town building official said Thursday.

The town's project clearinghouse -- the Environmental Advisory Committee -- meets Feb. 14 and again Feb. 28.

"The committee hopes to wrap this up on Valentine's Day; worst-case scenario, the 28th," said Thomas J. Adamczak, supervising building inspector.

With construction of a second east-west mall access road ruled out last month, traffic relief measures are now focused on the intersection of Galleria Drive and Union Road.

Authorities said new designs under review by the state Department of Transportation show five eastbound lanes on Galleria Drive where it meets Union -- two lanes for left turns, two for right turns and the middle lane for through traffic to the Union Consumer Square plaza on the other side of Union.

Currently, eastbound Galleria has three lanes at Union -- one for left turns, one for right turns and the middle lane for through traffic and left turns.

In addition, there would be two westbound lanes instead of one for traffic entering Galleria Drive from Union, officials said.

Major work at the Galleria-Union intersection also will mean realigning the traffic lanes in and out of Union Consumer Square on the other side of the intersection, officials said.

Planners last month scratched the idea of creating a second mall access road by extending town-owned McKesson Parkway to the mall's east loop road and putting up a new traffic light at Union and McKesson.

Signals on Union at Galleria and McKesson would have been too close together to suit some planners, but that wasn't the primary reason the design was dropped, officials said.

To work best, the McKesson intersection would have to be moved south to align with South Creek Drive on the other side of Union.

But officials explained that design would have meant building a bridge over Scajaquada Creek and trying to acquire school district-owned land already included in a school construction project -- obstacles the mall owners, the Pyramid Cos. of Syracuse, didn't want to tackle.

Cheektowaga officials feared that connecting McKesson to residential South Creek Drive would open up that street and others to mall traffic.

Previously, the town and the owners agreed on the need for a left-turn lane on Galleria Drive between Union and the mall's east loop road, which includes a U.S. Postal Service branch and Starbucks coffeehouse. Town officials also want the left-turn lane extended to the area between the east and west loop roads.

The mall's amended master plan will increase its size from 1.5 million square feet to about 2.1 million square feet, with the emphasis on food, fun and covered parking.

Highlights include a new three-floor retail wing, with the top floor housing an 18-screen cinema complex; several restaurants and entertainment venues; and a pair of five-level parking decks connected to the mall via walkways and bridges.

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