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Benefits of Route 20 project touted

Reconstruction of Route 20 in Hamburg and Orchard Park, including reconfiguration of the Seven Corners intersection, will cost $14 million and take two full construction seasons, but motorists will have a quicker, safer drive, state Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday night.

Some of the complaints were the same -- especially that the speed limit will remain 50 mph -- as in a public hearing in May, but now the plan has been finalized.

Studies have shown that 80 percent of motorists will drive at a speed they feel comfortable with -- regardless of what is posted -- so unless there is constant enforcement, "an artificial speed limit just doesn't work," Darrell Kaminski, regional design engineer, told about 50 people in the Grange Building on the Erie County Fairgrounds.

Raymond Waite, of Auckland Avenue, Orchard Park, said development has resulted in the 50-mph speed becoming a "nightmare" for area residents.

The Big Tree Volunteer Fire Department remains opposed to adding traffic signals before the intersection, and recent improvements have made the intersection safer, said Second Assistant Chief Ron Klimowicz.

Studies have shown, however, that the accident rate is double that of similar intersections, said Frank Billittier, design engineer for the DOT.

While rerouting Big Tree Road will shorten the time it takes Route 20 and McKinley Parkway traffic to get through the intersection, Big Tree traffic will take slightly longer because it will be diverted onto Route 20 at new T-intersections and then cross what will be a regular four-corner intersection, officials said.

While there will not be designated bicycle lanes, paved 6-foot-wide shoulders will make it nice for bike riders, Kaminski told a questioner.

There may not appear to be much pedestrian traffic along the road, he said, but once sidewalks are added, it is expected to increase.

The project, scheduled to begin in spring 2007 if funding is available, also includes widening Southwestern Boulevard with the addition of a center turn lane from South Park Avenue in Hamburg to California Road in Orchard Park and adding turn lanes at Southwestern and Abbott Road in Orchard Park.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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