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DOT mulling 'road diet' for South Union Road

When South Union Road is restriped this year, should it go on a "road diet?"

That's the question before officials from the Town of Amherst, Village of Williamsville and state Department of Transportation as the state considers downsizing the busy stretch of South Union, from Wehrle Drive north to Main Street, from four lanes to three.

The DOT at a public meeting in November proposed one 12-foot wide travel lane in each direction, a 14-foot wide two-way center turn lane and a shoulder of up to five feet. The current configuration is two travel lanes in each direction and no shoulder.

A proposal by the state Department of Transportation calls for converting South Union's four lanes into three.

But when the DOT received public comments on the plan, there was opposition and the current four-lane design was retained, Susan S. Surdej, regional public information officer for the state DOT, said by email. Residents were concerned about congestion and difficulty making left-hand turns.

After learning about the decision, village and town officials came out in support of the three-lane plan, saying it will calm traffic and reduce accidents.

Town Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa said left-hand turns will be safer with the addition of a center turn lane, since it takes vehicles out of the travel lanes. Current travel lanes are too narrow for four lanes of traffic going 40 mph, he added, and there's no buffer between traffic and pedestrians.

"Hopefully it tempers everything a little bit," he said of the three-lane design. "It's a tremendous betterment versus what's there now."

The Amherst Town Board on Monday will consider a resolution requesting that the DOT return to its original restriping plan of three lanes.

The three-lane configuration has become popular in recent years when roads are restriped. Amherst officials in 2015 asked Erie County to consider a “road diet” for the one-mile stretch of Kensington Avenue between Main Street and Harlem Road. The Town Board on Monday will also present its preferred striping plan for Kensington – two travel lanes and one continuous two-way left turn lane.

A public information session about the South Union project is scheduled for April 23 at Village Hall. Surdej said DOT is willing to work with the municipalities, if an official request is made for the three-lane design to be restored.

The restriping of South Union, a state road, is part of a $500,000 project that also calls for milling and resurfacing the pavement with a new layer of asphalt. Curb ramps not ADA compliant will also be replaced. Construction is expected to begin in September and continue through June 2019.

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