The Village of Williamsville’s new initiative, Picture Main Street, is well worth the relatively meager amount of state or federal assistance it needs to fully implement the project.
The result could mean safer streets for pedestrians and more walkability in what should be a walkable area but often isn’t. In fact, walking along the village’s Main Street can be downright dangerous.
As News staff reporter Sandra Tan chronicled, getting around on foot is a hazardous activity for pedestrians such as 90-year-old Margaret Rogers, and it doesn’t have anything to do with her age. Cars and trucks whiz by as she stands bravely waiting to cross Main Street.
The Picture Main Street proposal, which will be finalized next month and possibly win Village Board approval in January, hopes to improve the pedestrian experience without breaking the village bank. This would be accomplished in a number of ways, including “bulb out” protruding curb extensions at intersections, a pedestrian island and a designated, mid-block pedestrian traffic signal in the village center, among others.
These ideas and probably more should go a long way toward making it even a little safer to walk in the village. Most drivers who travel the area understand, even though they may be part of the problem.
How many of us have used Main Street as a toll-free bypass of the Thruway between I-290 and Transit Road? It can certainly appear to be an attractive alternative to the Thruway toll booths. That is, until the traffic on Main Street starts exacting a heavy toll. On Oct. 1, a tractor-trailer heading down Main Street clipped a town platform lift truck and sent two town workers to the hospital with multiple fractures.
Mayor Brian Kulpa told The News he knows there’s no way to “unwiden” Main Street from the improvements made in the 1990s – but he and others are determined to make it more physically attractive to walkers. And he wants crossing the road on foot to not instill as much fear, either.
It’s going to take money. The village has already spent about $10,000 to plant 56 sidewalk trees through the Main Street core. Planting more will require the help of a state grant. The Village Board also adopted in October new design standards to preserve village character and encourage mixed use and pedestrian access on Main Street.
But the more costly curb extensions, at about $3 million, require some state or federal matching grants. And the village is hoping for state assistance in installing a pedestrian-activated traffic signal and crosswalk, which the state Department of Transportation has offered to study.
If all goes well, 90-year-old Margaret Rogers won’t have to rely on her sense of timing and good luck to get her across the street safely. She’ll truly have the right of way.