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Williamsville seeks new Thruway interchange to relieve Main St. congestion

Traffic on Main Street in Williamsville isn’t getting any better, so village officials are dusting off old proposals for a new Youngs Road Thruway interchange to relieve stifling congestion. They want an interchange that links the Thruway to the village as well as to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

And in the process, they lambaste Amherst town officials for failing to build the infrastructure to accommodate “unbridled development growth.”

While the village has neither the authority nor the money to sponsor such a major project, Mayor Brian J. Kulpa says it’s time to “start the conversation” with an eye toward reducing traffic problems on major thoroughfares like Main Street.

“The unfortunate thing is that the village can’t do any of the construction, but we can get out in front and push,” he said. “So we have to start the conversation that needs to be had.”

When the Village Board meets Monday, Kulpa and Deputy Mayor Christopher J. Duquin expect trustees will approve their proposal that “seeks new partnerships” with state and county governments to sponsor the new interchange.

Duquin said village officials face constant criticism from residents about traffic congestion, which he said is a result of the town’s failure to provide the proper roads to handle major developments it has encouraged, such as the Ingram Micro facility.

“It’s time to get out there and get going,” he said. “If the town won’t do anything, we need to step up.”

Village trustees spare no criticism of Amherst officials, using blunt language that takes the town to task.

“The lack of leadership by the Town of Amherst goes back more than 30 years and the confluence of bad decisions have led us to where we are today,” states the resolution that will go before the Village Board on Monday.

It also “admonishes” the town for a “lack of leadership on overdeveloping land around the Village of Williamsville without making necessary infrastructure improvement.”

Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein said he enjoys excellent relations with village officials, but dismissed Kulpa’s efforts to blame the town for traffic congestion as “baloney.”

“I don’t know what he’s talking about or what he means by infrastructure,” Weinstein said. “It almost seems like a campaign salvo. Maybe he wants to run for supervisor in two years.”

The concept of a Youngs Road interchange has been studied for almost two decades, simultaneous with ultimately unsuccessful efforts to move the Williamsville toll barrier farther east.

Now the Thruway Authority is beginning a project to expand lane capacity and expedite toll procedures at Williamsville that is expected to preclude for the immediate future any barrier relocation.

But as far back as 1996, village officials were discussing a Youngs Road exit because of congestion problems on Main Street and other parts of the village.

Kulpa and Duquin recently met with Thruway Authority officials to discuss the problem, they said, and learned that the municipality responsible for Youngs Road – in this case Erie County – must pay for any new interchange. As a result, they will seek county involvement and also will look to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority to leverage federal funds because of the potential airport connection.

County spokesman Peter Anderson said the County Executive’s Office received its first inquiries from the village on Friday.

“Certainly, Erie County will work with them as they investigate this,” he said.

Weinstein, meanwhile, said in the past that he has initiated his own efforts with the Thruway Authority and state Department of Transportation to reduce Main Street traffic, at one point suggesting elimination of the 15-cent toll between Exits 49 and 50.

“If he can get the attention of the Thruway Authority or DOT, that’s great,” the supervisor said. “I couldn’t even get a 15-cent toll removed. So good luck to him.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com