By Lauren Zaepfel
The Wheatfield Town Board voted in favor of supporting safety improvements suggested by the New York State Department of Transportation for Shawnee Road at Monday night's Town Board meeting.
The DOT's suggestions came after Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe, as well as New York State Sen. Robert G. Ortt, wrote to the DOT requesting a study be done on the road, which currently has a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. Two teens were struck and killed on the road last summer.
A recent letter to Cliffe, written by Thomas S. Messana, P.E., regional traffic engineer with the DOT, stated the DOT suggests the installation of signs reading "State law do not drive on shoulder" at the corner of Mapleton and Shawnee roads, and adding cross-hatched pavement markings for north and southbound traffic ahead of Mapleton Road. The DOT also said it would consider installing closed drainage or re-grading ditches in areas with deep roadside ditches. Also, it would determine areas to install signals. Additional deer-crossing signs were suggested to be installed along the road to help reduce vehicle-deer collisions, as well. And to help prevent drivers from leaving their lane, the DOT suggested adding rumble strips (made up of several small holes in the roadway) to Shawnee Road, which would create vibration and noise when tires cross.
"They envision putting them all the way down the center of Shawnee Road and on both sides," Cliffe said. "The objective is to keep people in their lane. If you're driving late at night, if you're driving a little on the fast (side), you're not paying attention; it will wake you up when you're getting out of your lane before you've crossed over. In the opinion of the state in reviewing Shawnee Road, they think this is one way to improve safety."
The DOT recently sent a letter to Ortt and New York State Assemblyman Angelo J. Morinello, which referred to the number of accidents on Shawnee Road, Cliffe said. "Most of them were driving off the road and hitting mail boxes or garbage or something - they didn't really get hurt, but it would stop, hopefully, some of those kinds of accidents and, maybe, eventually, save lives," he said.
Before the board members unanimously agreed to support all of the DOT's recommendations, Cliffe inquired if anyone wanted to comment on the rumble strips.
"The down side of (the strips), are they rumble," he said. "So the people who live there have to put up with the rumble (noise) - in some cases several times a day, every time somebody passes a car or crosses the road to take a left hand turn."
No one present during the meeting publicly opposed the addition of rumble strips, which already exist on some roadways in the town, including Niagara Falls Boulevard and Ward Road.
Cliffe said signs are expected to come as soon as the DOT can have them delivered, but the rumble strips would probably have to be worked into another project.
"I'm hoping it happens this year," Cliffe said. "There's no guarantees at this point."
Despite the DOT's recommendations, Cliffe wrote to Messana last week and re-asked some questions that were left unanswered, including the installation of additional signage at the top of the hill near Shawnee Country Barns Antique Co-Op, as well as a light at Loveland, Moyer, Klemer or another intersecting road with Shawnee Road. He said there is a need for improved signage at the top of the hill that would warn drivers of those making left turns ahead.
Messana, via phone call, "said (the DOT) had considered that. They do intend to put something additional at the top of the hill, it's before you get to Slusaric (Road), to warn people there's a left-hand turn coming up," Cliffe said. "He didn't know exactly what that was going to be yet. And they have no intention of putting a street light on Shawnee Road under its present conditions."
Cliffe also asked if Klemer Road could be changed to become part of a 90-degree intersection. Messana said the DOT is not prepared to change Klemer Road at this time, but may consider it if it ever does a major reconstruction of Shawnee Road, Cliffe said.