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‘Road diet’ prescribed for Kensington Avenue in Amherst

No offense to Kensington Avenue, but the road could use a little slimming down.

At least that’s the thinking of the Town of Amherst, which is prescribing a “road diet” for the one-mile stretch of Kensington, between Main Street and Harlem Road.

Of course, in this case, a diet actually means restriping the county-owned road to reduce the number of travel lanes. That’s expected to lower the speed of the traffic, while opening up the possibilities of adding bicycle lanes and street parking.

Amherst is pitching the idea to Erie County as a low-cost alternative for improving traffic safety.

“It’s not a new concept, but it’s somewhat new in the town and could work to alleviate the concerns of the residents out there,” said Councilmember Guy R. Marlette. “When people want traffic in their area calmed, the first thing people say is, ‘We need a traffic light. We need a stop sign.’ But those aren’t always the best solutions.”

This section of Kensington cuts east-west through a neighborhood mixed with homes and businesses. It has four lanes, a 35 mph speed limit, sidewalks and “No Parking” signs posted on both sides of the street.

But since roundabouts were installed at Kensington and Harlem Road several years ago, residents have complained there are fewer gaps in traffic for vehicles to cross at Lamarck Drive. Residents have asked for a traffic signal at the intersection of Kensington and Lamarck. The town hired Urban Engineers of Buffalo to perform a traffic study.

Based on the number of accidents – 19 in six years – and the average daily traffic count – 8,300 – the intersection doesn’t warrant a light, but Kensington would be a good candidate for a road diet, the study concluded.

The road could be restriped in any of a variety of ways, including two lanes and a center turn lane, two lanes and street parking or two lanes for vehicles and two for bikes. The study also pointed that a road diet has been shown to reduce accidents.

“It slows the traffic down, it eliminates conflicts. There are fewer lanes to cross or turn into,” said Chris Schregel, principal engineer assistant with the town. “It’s an easy, cost-effective way to do something. You’re just restriping it, essentially.”

In fact, transportation officials would like to see this strategy used more often. New York State and the City of Buffalo have embraced this so-called “Complete Streets” concept of safer streets for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike, but it has yet to be widely utilized in the suburbs on roads that were overbuilt for the amount of traffic they move, said Timothy Trabold, transportation programs manager with the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

“There are opportunities out there,” Trabold said. “The planning folks in the Northtowns have been seeing how they can implement those 'complete streets’ principles. We really would like to see the county get involved in this.”