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Old complaints, new roundabouts: Adjustment by drivers in Town of Tonawanda is 'all a matter of time'

The construction of 3 mini-roundabouts along Parker Boulevard is almost finished. Drivers got their first taste of 2 partially completed circles.

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. — The Town of Tonawanda is the latest municipality getting flack for installing three roundabouts along Parker Boulevard as the town tries to slow traffic and make the area near Lincoln Park safer for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Construction along the road at the Decatur, Harrison, and Englewood intersections started in early August, and the projected completion of the roundabouts is mid-October, although the ones at Harrison and Decatur are partially finished and able to be traversed.

From pushback in Hamburg to Cheektowaga, Supervisor Joe Emminger said the Town of Tonawanda has heard many of the same complaints, although he insists “it’s only a matter of time” until people adjust.

“They said it's for safety reasons. I've seen no safety problems. I've lived here 30 years, and I see no safety problems,” said Mark McCormick, a Town of Tonawanda resident.

McCormick is one of a group of neighbors who, whether on social media or at town board meetings, have opposed the project. Comments on the Town of Tonawanda and What’s Going on Town of Tonawanda Facebook pages have said the mini-roundabouts are too narrow to traverse or were a waste of town taxpayer money.

The $1.3 million project is being paid for using a federal grant for over $900,000. The remaining money will come from matching grants Emminger said that were obtained by the town.

The hub of the roundabout at Harrison and Parker was bumped by a couple of drivers when 2 On Your Side was getting video of the project. There were also tire marks left by previous vehicles.

The roundabouts are designed to slow traffic to around 10 mph, while the central concrete hub allows oversized vehicles such as large trucks or buses to cut the curb if necessary. Firetrucks and other emergency vehicles can also cut over the central circle entirely if needed.

Emminger added that while he initially doubted the roundabouts would work, over time he was convinced by various traffic studies and engineers that the project would improve safety.

For example, at Decatur and Parker, instead of crossing the entire street, the roundabout has allowed for a pedestrian safety area to be created, which allows better access for people of all abilities.

“I was concerned about that crossing there with the roundabout nearby and I've been converted,” Emminger said.

“I think most people will feel the same way once they get around to it. We're not going to convince everybody about it though… but it’s only a matter of time.”

McCormick agrees that things will likely improve as more people adjust, although he still doubts the effectiveness of the roundabouts.

While the circular traffic structures may always have enemies, Emminger warned that while the three roundabouts on Parker Boulevard are the latest to be finished, they likely won’t be the last to be constructed.

“There's going to be more of them. I'm just being honest there's going to be more in the Town of Tonawanda. There's going to be more in Western New York," Emminger said.

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