Assembly Speaker announces funding for French Road lights; tours Calspan

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie joins Supervisor Diane Benczkowski, Assemblymember Monica Wallace, and South Line firefighters on August 22nd to announce funding for two new signal lights along French Road. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie joins Supervisor Diane Benczkowski, Assemblymember Monica Wallace, and South Line firefighters on August 22nd to announce funding for two new signal lights along French Road. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie joined Assemblymember Monica Wallace in Cheektowaga Wednesday to tour a new testing facility at Calspan and to announce funding for two new signal lights along French Road.

Cheektowaga Chronicle reported last week that the town hired an outside firm to study traffic signal improvements at five intersections along the busy thorofare.

Today’s announcement secures $150,000 in state funding for emergency traffic signal systems at the Boxwood Lane and French Road locations of the South Line Volunteer Fire Department.

“When an emergency call comes in, every moment is critical,” said Assemblymember Monica Wallace. “Whether it’s a car accident, structure fire, or a medical emergency, our volunteer firefighters can’t afford to wait for traffic to clear to leave their station.”

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski announced that the Town of Cheektowaga has approved $133,300 for preliminary engineering and construction costs.

“With five lanes of traffic and new commercial development, traffic safety along the French Road corridor is a major concern,” said Ms. Benczkowski.  “It’s a new design; it’s not just a flashing red light.  It will be a red, yellow, green light that people will be able to see more readily rather than just a flashing light.”

South Line Fire Chief Andrew Dayton says this has been an ongoing project for the past ten years.

“Our firefighters have had a major concern about this for the longest time,” said Mr. Dayton.  “Sometimes the vehicles don’t see the light change, and then they drive through the light and then sometimes the guys have had near misses.”

The new system will allow South Line firefighters to trigger the light, turning it red and ensuring that motorists are stopped in preparation for emergency vehicles exiting the firehouse.

The new system will be installed following the completion of an engineering study by DiDonato Associates.

Earlier in the day, the speaker and assemblymember toured a brand new 58,000 square foot testing facility at Calspan.  The $20 million crash test facility opened in January with the help of state aid.

“This building is an example of how we can use public money to help facilitate private investment in our community,” Ms. Wallace said. “There are car manufacturers from all over the world bringing their vehicles here to be tested, and we have very high-tech jobs here, a couple hundred engineers work here.  It’s really a great example of spending a little bit of public money to make sure we keep jobs here in Western New York.”

The project received $497,000 in Excelsior Tax Credits and a $400,000 grant from Empire State Development according to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“I think that targeted investment by the state is a good thing particularly in Upstate and Western New York where the job growth isn’t as robust as I would say in the city and in Westchester and Long Island,” Mr. Heastie added.

The project was said to create 50 new jobs and retained another 147 jobs.

“[The state aid] was helpful in terms of further stimulating our desire to do it and do it in Cheektowaga and Buffalo, New York,” said John Yurtchuk, Chairman and Owner of Calspan.  “We’ll typically put $2.5 million worth of testing equipment in a $40 thousand car.  The crash test dummies, the high-speed cameras, all the technology that measures what happens in a crash in a lot of different ways and that’s what distinguishes us – we made those types of investments as well.”

He says the state-of-the-art facility allows Calspan to perform around 1,500 motor vehicle-related crash tests every year.  Customers from around the world are banging down their door to use the facility.

“I think it’s significant because we bring the who’s who not only in aerospace to Western New York and expose them to this area because of what we do – that means Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Space X and Elon Musk – and also now automotive because we have this facility that mirrors our flight facility which is state-of-the-art in technology.  Now we’re going to bring in the who’s who of the automotive world to Western New York in a larger volume than before, and in some cases, they have never been here at all,” added Mr. Yurtchuk.

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