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Route 20 fatality prompts plea to improve road

Another fatal accident on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg has prompted town officials to plead for changes in the road.

The chairman of the town’s Traffic Safety Committee is asking the state to install a center turning lane, and demanding the speed limit be lowered.

“Route 20 between Amsdell and South Creek roads has been the site of an inordinate number of vehicle crashes that have resulted in fatalities,” Ted Casey wrote in a letter to the regional director of the state Department of Transportation, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, Sen. Marc Panepinto, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo.

Joseph A. Slisz III of Derby died Saturday after his westbound car crossed into oncoming traffic, hit a motorcycle, left the road and struck a tree before rolling over, Hamburg police said. Authorities were waiting for results of an autopsy to determine if Slisz suffered a medical emergency before the crash.

Serious accidents along that stretch of road have generated concern over the years and prompted residents at the Villas at Brierwood, just off Southwestern between Amsdell and Pleasant Avenue, to hold a meeting with state officials in January to ask for improvements to the road.

There are 52 condominiums in the Villas today, and there are 90 more planned, according to residents.

State officials said at the meeting that the state is completing a traffic study of the area. A study performed between 2010 and 2013 showed the number of accidents was not enough to warrant road modifications at that time.

The results of the traffic study are being finalized and should be available in the next week or two, according to DOT Spokeswoman Susan S. Surdej. Casey said he consulted with local politicians, police and residents, and the consensus is a safe solution is necessary. He had the backing of the Town Board, Police Chief Gregory Wickett and Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon for his letter.

He said the most effective solution would be the installation of a center turn lane, similar to the one installed on the northern section of the road, which he said had a dramatic impact on reducing the number of incidents on that section of road. He also demanded that the 55 mph speed limit be lowered to 45 mph.

About 16,000 vehicles drive on that section of road each day.

“At the end of the day, action needs to take place,” Casey said.