A retired state police senior investigator who died with his wife Tuesday in a car crash had previously complained how dangerous it was turning onto Genesee Street from their Cheektowaga development, the elderly couple’s son said Wednesday.
Eugene J. Fechter, 83, and his wife, Marian, 84, died after the small sport utility vehicle Mr. Fechter was driving collided with a 2010 Dodge Challenger eastbound on Genesee Street, near Transit Road, in Cheektowaga.
“My father would say it is a chore, very dangerous, getting out onto Genesee Street,” said Eugene V. Fechter. “Earlier today, when we left here to go to the police station, it was like taking your life into your hands.”
Fechter on Tuesday died within an hour after being rushed by an ambulance to Erie County Medical Center, and his wife died a couple hours later, relatives said.
The deaths of the Fechters prompted more calls from neighbors and a town official for the state to install a traffic light at Calla Way and Genesee.
But a state official said the amount of traffic along that stretch does not warrant a signal and that installing one might create a bigger hazard.
“If we install an unwarranted signal, it can actually cause an increase in accidents, and that’s important to know,” said Charlie Morgante, regional director of operations for the state Department of Transportation.
But Fechter’s neighbors say they see the danger every day.
“It’s horrible to get onto Genesee Street. You could be sitting there waiting 10 minutes, sometimes, for the traffic, which goes by at 50 or 60 miles an hour. They fly by,” said Gerald Boldt, who lived next to the Fechters.
Mary Ann Wroblewski, a longtime Calla Pointe resident, said she and her neighbors have pressed officials for a traffic signal for 15 years.
Many senior citizens live in the development, and their reaction time is not as quick as it is for younger motorists, she said.
“We’re all older people here, and if you have any kind of difficulties, it makes it impossible to get onto Genesee Street. The traffic comes barrelling down the road,” Wroblewski said.
The Fechters’ son and his wife, Gail, spoke outside his parents’ manufactured home at Calla Pointe and called for a traffic light to be installed in memory of his parents, who would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary Wednesday.
“How many more deaths do there have to be?” Eugene V. Fechter asked.
No charges were filed against Richard Lipczynski, 33, of Cheektowaga, the other motorist in Tuesday’s crash. He was not hurt.
Council Member Stanley J. Kaznowski says he has worked for about two years with members of the Sky Harbor Residents Association to try to get the DOT to install a traffic light along the 45-mph stretch of road in the area, where he says motorists often drive well above the speed limit.
“The state says there is not enough traffic warranting a signal system coming out of the mobile park. I think the traffic along that section of Genesee is excessive and at times faster than the posted speed limit,” Kaznowski said.
“The state should use a common sense approach and put in a signal based on this fatality and the excessive traffic and speed,” he said.
A state traffic study, however, took into consideration the volume of traffic and also traffic patterns, impact of area schools, the number of pedestrians and the history of crashes, said the DOT’s Morgante.
Morgante said it is unlikely a single crash like Tuesday’s collision would change the decision not to install a signal, but, he said, a new study would be done if there is more development in the area, leading to increased traffic.
Pat Cipolla, owner of the 130-home Calla Pointe and an adjacent development where his company, Bella Vista Group, is constructing 80 apartments, said he has tried to convince the state to put in a signal because of the high speeds of motorists and anticipated increases in population.
“I said we have to have a signal because someone is going to get killed. I’ve had a traffic study done because the town wanted it with the apartments, and I know the traffic volume is close for requiring a light. But it is the speed that is going to kill someone,” Cipolla said.
Cheektowaga Police Capt. James J. Speyer urged motorists to drive cautiously in the area.
“Genesee Street is one of our busier streets, and anybody pulling out onto it needs to use caution and be patient, especially during rush hour, when it can be treacherous,” Speyer said.
Eugene Fechter retired from the State Police in December 1989 after serving 37 years, with his last assignment at the Clarence barracks. Marian Fechter was a real estate agent.
In addition to their son, they are survived by a daughter, Cathy Wheeler.