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State planning numerous changes to Route 5 in Hamburg

Drivers come to a dead stop on Bayview Road every day, and then gun it to get across three lanes of traffic barreling down Route 5 at 55 mph.

Some don’t make it.

Now New York State engineers have decided the best way to improve safety at that Hamburg intersection is to eliminate it.

Bayview Road will be closed between the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route 5.

That is just the start. Other changes include:

• A new Lake Erie Boulevard will be constructed, accessing the FedEx Ground Transport distribution center just east of Route 5.

• A stoplight will be installed at Lake Erie Boulevard and Route 5.

• Hoover Road will be realigned to meet Route 5 across from Lake Erie Boulevard, forming a four-corner intersection.

• A road will be constructed to access the industrial area and tavern on Hoover Road, which will meet the realigned Hoover Road in a T-intersection.

• A cul-de-sac will be built on the north end of Hoover Road near the Southtowns Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Most of the changes are scheduled to occur next year, but the stoplight will be installed this year.

Hamburg police, who have responded to their share of calls in the area, see the changes as a good thing.

“We’ve had a number of bad accidents there, and several fatalities,” said Hamburg Police Chief Gregory Wickett. “Anything they can do to improve that intersection there is a positive thing.”

The accident rate at the intersection is more than 13 times the statewide rate for similar intersections, according to the state Department of Transportation. There also were two accidents with fatalities at the intersection during two three-year periods the department studied.

Many of those collisions were between vehicles headed east, or into Buffalo, on Route 5 and vehicles headed east, or away from Lake Erie, on Bayview.

“A lot of people, when they’re crossing there, they underestimate the speed,” Wickett said.

Susan Surdej, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said last summer that several options were being considered.

“We need to correct the safety deficiencies, reduce the accident rate and reduce the accident severity,” she said at that time.

Construction on the $2 million project will begin next year, she said. Realigning Hoover Road will require the state to acquire several parcels, including the Universal Engine business.

Residents have complained for years about the section of road, but it was not until FedEx decided to build in Hamburg two years ago that reasonable alternatives surfaced to access Hoover Road. The developer of the property built the new Lake Erie Boulevard, which runs from Route 5 to Bayview Road. The road will be turned over to the town.

Safe access to Route 5 through the erection of a traffic signal was a must when the town was trying to woo the facility. The 41,400 motorists who use the road daily see blockades at the new road, where the traffic signal will be installed.

“The opening of Lake Erie Boulevard is not dependent upon our project,” Surdej said. “It is our understanding that it will open as a three-legged intersection with a permitted traffic signal sometime soon.”

Part of the state’s construction would tie into that intersection, she added.

After the traffic signal is activated, the 55 mph speed limit will remain for a period. Surdej said the state will start a speed study six months after the signal goes in, and then adjust the speed as necessary.

It’s uncertain what will happen with Bayview east of Route 5. The Town of Hamburg is thinking of closing off Bayview, either at Route 5, or just west of Willowdale Avenue near the railroad tracks.

“It would save us a lot of money,” said Hamburg Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr.

That’s because the town wants to install a railroad quiet zone at the railroad tracks. If the road was closed, cars would not go over the tracks, trains would not have to blow their horns, and the quiet zone would cost very little.

“My recommendation is to shut it off at the tracks,” Best said.

Under that scenario, the road would remain open for right turns only onto Route 5 near the Greater Woodlawn Federal Credit Union.