By Michael DePietro
Interim Tribune Editor
Last week, Wheatfield Supervisor Don MacSwan said he had a “positive meeting” with Department of Transportation officials where they provided a schedule for roadwork for the oft-maligned intersections along Niagara Falls Boulevard at Witmer and Ward roads.
The overall schedule has not changed and the project will see bid openings in June 2022. However, in the interim, it was announced the speed limit would be permanently lowered in the areas between Errick and Cy roads. The DOT also said additional signage will be added to the area.
In an email, DOT Regional Public Information Officer Susan Surdej clarified the interim plans.
“In advance of a planned intersection enhancement project currently scheduled to begin in the summer of 2022, interim measures are currently getting underway at Route 62 at Ward Road,” Surdej wrote. “NYSDOT is adding reflective strips on the ‘Signal Ahead’ sign posts, adding advance street name signs (Ward Road) onto the ‘Signal Ahead’ signs, adding ‘Be Prepared to Stop’ signs downstream of the ‘Signal Ahead’ signs and adding hatched pavement markers on the paved shoulders on Ward Road with ‘Do Not Drive on Shoulder’ signs.
“The posted speed limit on U.S. Route 62 will be reduced from 50 mph to 45 mph from just south/east of Errick Road to just south/east of Sy Road.”
The message details some of the overall plans expected in 2022, as well: “NYSDOT has a project planned intersection improvement currently in the design phase for U.S. Route 62 at Ward and Witmer Roads, which we anticipate getting underway in mid-2022. At this time, preliminary designs include designated left turn lanes on U.S. Route 62 and Ward Road North and South, intersection repaving, replacement and/or installation of curb ramps, crosswalks and pedestrian signals as needed, and new traffic signals.”
MacSwan seemed overall pleased with the interim plans, but admittedly hoped for more.
“I was hoping they would put up some advanced turns, but they told me at this time, because of the difficulty putting in additional lanes in temporarily, it just would not work,” he said.
The supervisor said the entrance to Oppenheim Park will be moved. Currently, drivers traveling down Witmer have to make a left and then an immediate right into the park entrance. The road will now lead directly into the park.
“If you look at Witmer Road, where it comes out now, that will eventually straighten out right across the road into the park, which has always been a big problem there, too. So that will be a big improvement,” MacSwan said.
He noted the DOT’s architectural team would be working with the Wheatfield Enhancement Volunteers to work on some beautification efforts along the boulevard.
In other news, the Town of Wheatfield is looking to extend its current contracts with local fire departments for an additional year.
At an informal meeting last Tuesday, MacSwan, Town Attorney Matthew Brooks and Budget Director Ed Mongold met with representatives from each of the town’s five fire companies.
The proposal would extend the contract as-is for an additional year as the town tries monitor its financial position in light of the pandemic.
MacSwan indicated most of the fire companies seemed receptive to the proposal.
“They seem to understand everywhere has some financial issues right now … obviously because of COVID 19 and the financial issues that ours and other municipalities (are facing). It’s obviously still preliminary, but they seem to be very good about it,” he said.
Negotiations are still early and MacSwan stressed the meeting was very casual.
“We’re hoping that, by next year, things are much better and then we can negotiate the three- year contract,” he said.
The current contract is set to expire at the end of the year.