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Hamburg roundabouts, Belmont bridge honored

Roundabouts in Hamburg and a signature bridge in Belmont have won Northeast regional awards for helping to transform their communities.

"I don't think any of us imagined it would make such a difference," Margaret Rust, of Imagine Hamburg, said of the four roundabouts that replaced traditional intersections and sparked a renaissance in the village.

The roundabouts and a $23 million road project made the community more pedestrian-friendly and spurred small-business owners to spruce up their buildings along the reconstruction of Route 62.

The Allegany County Village of Belmont, named for the French "beaumont," meaning beautiful hill, was a little tired and looked like many other Southern Tier villages.

"We really didn't have anything to set us apart," said Raymond DeTine, deputy mayor of Belmont.

Then about eight years ago, the state talked about replacing the Schuyler Street bridge carrying Route 19 over the Genesee River. Department of Transportation officials said they would carry downtown design themes through to the new bridge, designated as a "betterment" project.

So DeTine formed the Belmont Betterment Association, which started raising money for antique lighting fixtures and wrought-iron benches downtown, to give the community the flair it was lacking.

The two projects have been recognized by the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials, an organization of transportation experts from 11 states, two Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia. They will compete for national recognition sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Both projects had significant input from their communities in their design and implementation.

"These projects not only improve traffic safety and reduce congestion, but also connect their communities and support local economic development," said Stanley Gee, acting commissioner of the state Department of Transportation.

In Hamburg, the Route 62 Committee was formed by interested residents who worked with the state on pushing for a walkable community with roundabouts. The group eventually became Imagine Hamburg.

The collaboration between the group and the DOT "changed the history of Hamburg," according to Village Trustee Paul Gaughan. The vision survived a change in leadership in the Village Board and Public Works Department, he noted.

"They were the ones in the board room standing up for what they believed in," he said.

The Hamburg project received an award in the Innovative Management, Small Project category. Belmont's $4.25 million replacement of the 75-year-old bridge over the Genesee River Dam was in the Under Budget, Small Project category.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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