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First meeting of Parkside Florence Avenue intersection redesign signifies change

Buffalo officials hope to select a contractor by the end of October for the long-anticipated redesign of the intersection of Parkside and Florence avenues.

That’s what about 35 neighborhood residents learned during the first public meeting on the intersection upgrade on Wednesday evening at Parkside Lodge in Delaware Park. Though the exact groundbreaking is up in the air, residents are looking forward to the changes to an intersection that has been a safety issue since the 1970s.

Jeffrey W. Lebsack, senior project manager for Hatch Mott MacDonald, said Parkside has long been seen as a car street, and the goal is to make it a street for cars, pedestrians – and, someday, bicycles.

“We’re going to do everything that we can to make people aware they are in a place, and not just a place to get somewhere,” Lebsack said.

A total of $450,000 in federal funding was awarded to the city last year to make safety and design improvements to the intersection. A draft report of the design is expected to be completed by the end of the month for the city to review. The final design plan is expected to be completed by the end of August.

According to a 2012 report, there were 23 accidents at the Parkside intersection between 2008 and 2011.

Some of the proposed safety measures include curb bump-outs, which will narrow the roadway and travel lanes, a reduction in speed to 30 mph and the creation of a three-lane configuration of Parkside south of the intersection – two lanes of southbound traffic, one lane northbound, with parking on the east side.

Hatch Mott MacDonald has worked with city engineers, public works officials and the Parkside Community Association to develop the plans.

Several neighborhood residents welcomed the proposed changes Wednesday, with little opposition evident. Some hoped the changes would bring the feeling of a neighborhood back to the area.

Richard Wolf, a resident of Parkside, said his home has been hit twice by cars, with a lightpole and fire hydrant destroyed.

“I applaud the city for doing something about this horrendous mess,” he said. “We live in a neighborhood, and so we’re all going to have to bear the brunt of the change. We live in a beautiful place, and we want people to experience that.”

Lois Weis, a resident of Woodward Avenue, said that while she is interested in the plan, she is very concerned about traffic possibly being diverted to side streets.

Amber Small, executive director of the Parkside Community Association, said the possibility of traffic congestion elsewhere is a big concern for the organization, which is working against that possibility.

Other residents raised concern about the lack of police enforcement and pointed to cars running red lights on Parkside.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak said he would be in touch with Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda and urge an increase in patrols.

“At the end of all of this, I think we’ll come up with something that everyone will be happy with,” he said.