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ROUNDABOUTS REMAIN IN PLAN TO REBUILD ROUTE 62, FOR NOW

State Transportation Department officials say they will continue to review proposals for adding four roundabouts -- modified traffic circles -- in the Village of Hamburg as part of the reconstruction of Route 62, but for now they remain in the plan.

A 2 1/2 -hour informational meeting drew mostly negative comments from an audience of about 75 people Thursday night in the Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department.

But none of the comments was a "show stopper" that would cause reconsideration of the roundabouts, said Kenneth Kuminski, design engineer.

The $10 million project is scheduled to begin in 2007 and take at least two years.

It has been in the talking stage since 1998 and needs to move forward or risk loss of funding, said Darrell Kaminski, regional design engineer.

He and Kuminski have taken some lumps from residents over the recent Route 5 reconfiguration and acknowledged that "sometimes it seems we can't win." But he said the process was open, with ample opportunity for public suggestions.

Assemblyman Richard Smith, D-Hamburg, arranged Thursday's session because of continuing questions and controversy.

Several speakers said they agree a roundabout seems like a good solution to the congestion at the intersection of Buffalo and Clark streets with Legion Drive, where a two-lane roundabout is proposed, but questioned the need for the ones proposed for Main and Center streets, Main and Buffalo, and Buffalo and Prospect Avenue.

While roundabouts are fairly new in this area, they have a proven record of increasing safety and moving traffic more efficiently than signalized intersections, department officials said.

Several residents raised pedestrian safety issues. Amy Masocco of People Inc., which operates a group home near Main and Center, said the 12 developmentally disabled adults pride themselves on their independence and are able to cross at intersections with signals but might have problems at roundabouts.

Kuminski acknowledged the problem but said officials believe people -- including children -- who can learn to cross at a signal can learn to cross using the crosswalks at a roundabout.

He said the department is working with the Blind Association on a training program for the visually handicapped.

Who will be responsible for snow removal on the pedestrian islands? asked Bill Villepigue. The village, he was told.

Several people found fault with the group Imagine: Hamburg, formed to help plan the project, as favoring roundabouts and not listening to other points of view.

"They seem to be acting more as an authority than a task force," Brian Kulpa complained.

Several business owners worried about the effects of the construction and loss of parking.

Kaminski conceded difficulties but said the project must be done to correct drainage problems as well as replace the road.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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