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‘Safe routes to school’ project made intersection more dangerous, Lockport officials complain

LOCKPORT – The federal “Safe Routes to School” program, which installed several new sidewalks near Lockport schools this year, may have made one intersection more dangerous than it was before, city officials said Wednesday.

The corner in question is the intersection of Willow Street and Hi-Point Drive, behind Emmet Belknap Intermediate School. A sidewalk was laid on school property, parallel to Hi-Point Drive and cutting through the back fence of the school campus, east of the building.

The problem arose when the contractor painted boldly striped crosswalks on the pavement in all four directions earlier this month, as well as installing signs calling attention to the crosswalks.

“There are no stop signs, but people are starting to stop,” Alderwoman Anita Mullane said at Wednesday’s Common Council work session.

The presence of the crosswalks, as well as curb cuts at three corners that lead only onto private lawns, has led some residents to believe – incorrectly – that more sidewalks are being installed.

“We have no intention of adding three more sidewalks,” Mullane said.

The crosswalks are a short block from Roosevelt Drive, which is the next cross-street on Willow where drivers have to stop.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said the city’s Traffic Advisory Committee ought to address the issue, but Alderman John Lombardi III said he knows what needs to happen.

“We can’t have a stop sign because it’s too close (to Roosevelt Drive). The crosswalks have to come out,” Lombardi declared.

Although the work was done in the city, City Hall had nothing to do with the project. The Town of Lockport obtained a $342,000 Safe Routes to School grant and awarded Roman Construction Development of Pendleton a $447,816 contract that enabled the company to add sidewalks near several schools in the Lockport district, which includes the entire city and a chunk of the town. 1,743 feet on Locust Street Extension from O’Connor Drive to an existing asphalt trail leading to George Southard Elementary School.

Other sidewalks were installed this spring on Corinthia Street in the city and on East High Street and Locust Street Extension in the town. But at Willow and Hi-Point, some aldermen feared that a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk might think, incorrectly, that drivers on Willow face a stop sign. They do not, and will not.

“It’s more of a safety issue than if they weren’t there,” Mullane said of the crosswalks.