Amherst side of Niagara Falls Boulevard adds LED light poles

Tonawanda side to add some later this year following multiple traffic accidents and deaths

Mike Baggerman
January 15, 2020 - 3:00 am
Niagara Falls Boulevard. January 13, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Niagara Falls Boulevard. January 13, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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AMHERST, N.Y. (WBEN) - After years of safety concerns over the 6.2 mile stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard between Kenmore Avenue and Tonawanda Creek Road, progress is finally noticeable.

In recent weeks, the Town of Amherst installed a series of lights that have clearly introduced more visibility during the evening and nighttime, and early morning commutes.

Concerns about the safety of Niagara Falls Boulevard have plagued the road for several years. Five people died over a five-year span on the road, including Jennifer Duffin who was killed while trying to cross its six lanes in May 2018. In a report released by the New York State Department of Transportation last July, there were 31 pedestrian crashes from 2013 to 2018. The study said there was no specific "hot spot" for the pedestrian crashes and the cause of the accidents were blamed on both drivers and pedestrians.

The most recent reported pedestrian accident was last October 14 when a 17-year-old boy was hit by a car. The boy survived the accident.

Amherst Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa said close to 99 new lights will be installed, which will make it easier for pedestrians and drivers to see and communicate with one another on the roadway.

"We're currently at 51 new light poles on the east side of Niagara Falls Boulevard that are energized," Kulpa said. "We have some 60 installed already so we've got some still to power up. We've got another 40 to put in. By the time we're done, the boulevard from the 290 north to Creekside (Drive) will be lit up very well. If you're over there, you'll see it's really fundamentally different than it ever was."

Kulpa hopes the remaining lights will be installed by the end of February. The project cost the town close to $2 million, though Kulpa said it was paid for primarily using grant money.

"Is it going to make a big difference? Yeah, lighting makes a big difference and is part of a broader picture," Kulpa said.

The west side of the roadway - in the Town of Tonawanda - will also install lights in several months. Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joe Emminger said the town board voted Monday to move ahead with their agreement with National Grid to buy all the lights in the town.

"There's going to be approximately 49 poles with new LED lighting," Emminger said. "Forty-six will go on existing utility poles that are already there and three additional poles added. People are probably going to say it's too bright on Niagara Falls Boulevard. Better that problem than the problem we're facing now."

The owner of Little People's Park, a day care center located on the road between Willow Ridge Drive and Draden Lane, is among those thrilled with the addition of new lights for safety along the road.

"Many, many months we open in the darkness and close in the darkness," Sue Valint told WBEN. "So the light for the street also lightens up our parking lot which is a very helpful fact for taking kids out in the darkness and into cars. I think the lights on the boulevard have made a huge difference. It really brightly lights up (the road) and they're close enough together and they're bright enough to drive at night. You can see something before you're right on top of it."

Valint is well-aware of the pedestrian accidents that have happened near her business that she's operated for 30 years. However, she said there are many accidents that happen during broad daylight. In addition to the lights, she lauded the lowered speed limit from 45 to 40 on the road.

"I think there's just so much more traffic on the boulevard now because it's so built up now," Valint said. "Those two issues have helped it a lot. I do think a large portion of it is that the pedestrians need to be more safety conscious. We drive the boulevard at nighttime and in the morning and there's people standing in the medians. Just standing there and waiting for a break in the traffic. That's a huge thing that the lights have helped with. Now you can see them. Before you couldn't see them until you're right on top of them."

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