The New York State Department of Transportation is making changes along Niagara Falls Boulevard, as it works through a to-do list from a newly released study of the 6.5-mile stretch of the road north from Kenmore Avenue.
A lot of what is being done is more bureaucratic than anything else, from lowering the speed limit on the northern part of the road to more visible crosswalks. Altogether, the plan calls for spending $2 million and developing a larger plan over more time to see if this all works. The study says there is no cash right now for a long-term plan.
The key problem is pedestrian accidents, five of which were fatal, over five years. The study says there is no specific "hot spot" for problems. Because there are lawsuits, the department said no one can talk about the new study and plan.
Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa said the plan might help.
"It's a good immediate step and certainly the state spending $2 million on the boulevard is a good thing," Kulpa said. "It is a step, I think, that the study actually recognizes that it's not a long-term answer and that there needs to be some follow-up about long-term answers, but it is a step that should certainly help things."
A professional planner, Kulpa said there are all sorts of measures which might ease the situation on the heavily traveled road, like more police enforcement. However, he said the boulevard is badly designed—in his words, "the geometries are bad"—to handle a vast load of traffic on what is considered by surrounding neighborhoods their Main Street.
Kulpa said there is also a need for education.
"A third of it is actually working on the road itself. A third of it is enforcement. So the town is certainly willing to do our end in terms of enforcement," he said. "Education is going to be a big deal. The boulevard is going to be one of those challenges for both towns and the state for the forseeable future."
Kulpa said it is a matter of governmental responsibility.
"The end of the day, we need to provide roads that are conducive to commerce, conducive to people being able to live in their neighborhoods and conducive to vehicular safety," he said. "That means that from every aspect, we need to start to look at this road and think about how we can be better at it."
Complicating the situation is that this is a state highway that runs down the border between Amherst and the Town of Tonawanda, with needs on both sides reflecting major traffic issues in high-population density neighborhoods.
WBFO reached out to Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger, but did not hear back.