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GRAND ISLAND: Going in circles on the island

State unveils ‘roundabout’ solution to GI intersection woes

By Joseph Kissel
Niagara Gazette

It’s Timmy’s fault again.

In addition to the very busy Tim Horton’s and Burger King at Grand Island Boulevard and Staley Road, motorists trying to get to and from the I-190 cause tie-ups daily and accidents too often.

So Grand Island is getting a $2.6 million traffic island to help direct it more safely and continuously for motorists.

The project will likely break ground in 2010, according to Tom Romano of the state Department of Transportation. It should take one year to complete and will not coincide with other upcoming bridge projects, said Town Supervisor Peter McMahon.

A good portion of the meeting, attended by more than 50 residents and town officials, explained how a “modern roundabout” would be implemented.

Romano said there are already 50 in use across New York state. He said a good example is located at Rainbow Boulevard in Niagara Falls.

“The roundabout is considered one of the safest kind of intersection because vehicles are forced to slow down,” Romano said.

Some residents wondered if the state’s primary objective — safety — would compromise the intersection’s efficiency.

During the meeting, Romano ran a computer simulation of traffic flow at the roundabout, demonstrating a virtual view of how cars, trucks and busses would use the single-lane “circle” instead of a traffic light with a four-way stop.

Lulls in exiting thruway traffic would allow Staley and Boulevard motorists chances to get into the circle, which will not feature stop sighs.

Among other findings by the state about the GI Boulevard/Staley Road intersection:

• Accidents were 52 percent higher than the statewide average; there were 15 accidents during a three-year period between 2001 and 2003.

• Rear-end accidents accounted for almost half of the total, and almost all were on Grand Island Boulevard.

• The GI Boulevard and Staley Road intersection is listed as a “Safety Deficient Location.”

• Rear-end accidents appear to be caused by a combination of inappropriate high speeds of through vehicles entering or exiting the I-190 and queuing traffic that is not seen by inattentive motorists.

The DOT is still working on concepts, listening to proposals and will be conducting further on-site study of the intersection. Designs will be started this spring or early summer.