‘Hard Look’

Lawsuit Dismissed, Roundabout To Start

A sign on Route 60 near the Village of Fredonia/Town of Dunkirk line tells drivers the grim tale of what's coming, when New York State Department of Transportation crews start reconstructing the Routes 20 and 60 intersection up ahead on May 16. Photo by M.J. Stafford

The roundabout is about to begin.

Signs on all four approaches to the Routes 20 and 60 intersection, warning of delays starting May 16, foretell the arrival of New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) workers.

Traffic-separating medians and a traffic circle will go in at the intersection, and the stoplights will get removed.

The DOT’s project overview website states the construction contract was awarded April 25.

The contract award was for $3,685,957.

The Warren City Council in November approved a roundabout at the intersection of Market Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Warren, Pa. Submitted photo

“Estimated substantial completion date” is July 1, 2020.

The project was delayed because Enrico Francani, owner of the nearby McDonald’s, sued the DOT over what he alleged would be a loss of business due to the configuration of the roundabout.

He petitioned the State Supreme Court that DOT didn’t sufficiently study the project’s economic impacts on nearby businesses. State Supreme Court Judge Tracey Bannister dismissed that suit Thursday.

“The concern of adverse economic impacts to petitioners’ business was considered and addressed in a reasoned manner.”

“The project as currently designed maintains access to petitioners’ business from all four directions and addresses the concerns raised by the increase in motor vehicle accidents in the area because of left turns into local business adjacent to the intersection,” Bannister wrote in her ruling.

“This is not to say that the court does not take petitioners’ fear of potential, deleterious economic impact to their business seriously,” she continued.

“However, the high number of motor vehicle accidents in the area is also a significant concern. The court is satisfied that NYSDOT took petitioners’ concerns and those of the other local businesses seriously and balanced them with the significant impact to public health represented by the increased motor vehicle accidents in the area due to the left turn approaches to the local businesses.”

Bannister added, “The NYSDOT, being charged with traffic safety, must be given deference by the court with respect to traffic safety issues and will not second guess its conclusions.”

Alan Bozer, Francani’s lawyer, told the OBSERVER, “Our client is disappointed in the ruling. While we respect the court’s decision, it is troubling that safety issues we identified will not be addressed, and that local businesses will be adversely affected both by the construction and by the big new roundabout and medians.”

Francani and his legal team charged DOT did not take a “hard look” at project impacts, but Bannister wrote that reviewing the record made it clear the department did do so.

“As indicated in the court’s decision, it is a high burden to overturn a decision by a New York State agency.”

“The court was satisfied that the DOT took a ‘hard look’ at the matter. That is all the law requires.” Bozer said.

“The court did not evaluate the merits of the DOT’s plans, or decide there are no safety issues, or that business interests are protected, only that the DOT considered them.”

Susan Surdej, the DOT’s spokeswoman for Western New York construction, did not return several emails seeking comment on the roundabout project during the week.