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Accident reported on Thruway

By Howard B. Owens

A pickup vs. car accident is reported in the area of mile marker 397.4 in the eastbound lane on the Thruway.

Pembroke Fire and Indian Falls dispatched. East Pembroke requested to the scene.

No word on injuries.

State Police announce travel ban on I-90 into Erie County

By Press Release

Press release:

On Saturday, Jan. 13, a travel ban for Erie County and the I-90 has been issued due to the severe winter weather forecasted to impact Western New York through Sunday.

The driving ban begins on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 9 p.m. Anyone on the road that is not considered emergency personnel will be ticketed in Erie County and the I-90. The ban will be active till Sunday, Jan. 14 at 6 a.m. Depending on the storm on Sunday, the ban may be extended. A travel advisory for the entire area of Western New York remains in effect.

Additionally, there is a ban on Trucks/tractor trailer traffic on the I-90 from Exit 46 in the Rochester/Henrietta to the Pennsylvania border.

The Buffalo Bills game has been rescheduled to Monday, Jan. 15 at 4:30 p.m.

Troopers will be out checking all major routes of travel to ensure that motorists are as safe as possible and working with local Emergency Operations Centers as needed.  The State Police need your assistance to make this possible.  Motorists traveling in areas impacted by the snow and ice are asked to leave with extra time to make a slow and careful drive to your destination. Consider the snow accumulation on the roads, the current snowfall rate, the wind, and visibility.  Use your best judgment to determine if driving is prudent.  

Keep the following tips in mind:

•    Get the latest weather forecast before leaving with your local weather apps, monitor radio or TV stations.
•    Always clean your windows and mirrors FULLY of any snow and ice before driving.
•    Keep a full tank of gas
•    Fluid levels are sufficient ( windshield washer fluid, ant-freeze)
•    Spare tire is sufficient and you have the jack and wheel wrench
•    Use headlights at all times to increase your visibility to others.  Remember, if your windshield wipers are in use due to weather, then your headlights must be on.
•    Drive prudently.  If the conditions are adverse, you should decrease your speed accordingly.
•    Brake early 
•    Do NOT use cruise control.  This decreases your reaction time to apply braking.
•    Look out for events farther down the road.  Creating more time to react can make a difference.
•    Be aware of maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles.  Give them room to work. 
•    If you do not absolutely have to go out on the roads, then don’t.

If you do go out, is your vehicle prepared?

Is your trunk supplied to help you to be safe in case you are stopped or stranded in an area without assistance readily available:

  • Gloves, blankets, warmers, tool kit, first-aid kit, non-perishable foods, water, working flashlight and batteries, cell phone charger, etc
  • Shovel, ice scraper, de-icer, snow brush, rock salt or cat litter, tow chain or cable, jumper cables or battery charger, etc.

If you are involved in a collision or leave the roadway:

  • If you drive off the roadway and are stuck in a snow bank or ditch, stay in your vehicle and call 911.  DO NOT exit your vehicle unless it is an absolute emergency.  You put yourself at risk of being struck by another vehicle.
  • Roll your windows down a few inches or turn your vehicle off if you are stranded in snow for a period of time with your vehicle running. Covered mufflers can cause serious physical injury or death due to inhalation of carbon monoxide.
  • If you should become stranded on the Thruway or any Roadway, know your location by being aware of your direction and mile post marker.  This will help emergency personnel reach your location as quickly as possible.  

The Thruway Authority provides a wide variety of information for travelers, including current traffic conditions, accidents, and lane closures.  Visit www.thruway.ny.gov for more information.  

Slow down.  Be prepared.  Be safe.  

Truck hauling drinking water catches fire on Thruway

By Howard B. Owens
thruway truck fire

Westbound Thruway traffic was blocked for a time this afternoon because of a truck fire in the area of mile marker 399.

Pembroke Fire, Indian Falls Fire, Corfu Fire, and East Pembroke Fire responded to the call, which came in at 12:28 p.m.

No injuries were reported.

The truck was hauling Poland Springs water.

Photos by Stephen Kowalcyk.

thruway truck fire
thruway truck fire

Pembroke planning approves travel plaza development for Exit 48a

By Howard B. Owens
pembroke thruway travel plaza planning

The Town of Pembroke Planning Board approved a proposal for a new travel plaza off Exit 48a of the Thruway on Wednesday, clearing the way for construction to begin in the spring.

When completed, the as-yet-unnamed travel plaza will join Flying J, TA, and Speedway as locations on Route 77 where travelers and truckers can rest, get a bite to eat, refuel and perhaps get a wash.

The vote to approve the environmental review and site plan passed 6-1, with board member Thomas Marshall casting the lone "nay."

In a brief presentation before the vote, Engineer Michael Metzer addressed some of the issues raised at last month's public hearing before the board and by the Genesee County Planning Board.

Previously, there were concerns expressed about sight lines coming from the Thruway overpass and the increase in traffic the new travel plaza is likely to bring to the interchange.

Metzer said since the last meeting, a traffic study has been completed.

"The results of that study were that there are no sightline issues whatsoever," Metzer said.

As for additional traffic, that won't be an issue either.

They've determined that there would be no impact on the level of service in the area, interchanges or intersections," Metzger said. "They looked at seven intersections altogether, and every one of those still meets code. There are no adverse impacts to the intersections; obviously, there's gonna be more traffic, you know, nobody's debating that. But what this traffic impact study does is that it makes a determination of whether the impacts are adverse or not, whether they create a problem. And so, in summary, ... (there is) no significant impact as a result of this project."

Through the environmental review process, it was determined the project could impact an endangered species, the northern long-eared bat.  

The developer has two options: Conduct a detailed study to see if the bat is present on the property, or not cut down any trees on the property during hibernation season -- from Nov. 1 to March 31.

The second option is the one the developer will take, Metzger said.

"If you don't remove any trees (during those months), you are in compliance with DEC guidelines and federal guidelines as well," Metzger said.

To address another issue, Metzger said the project is designed in full compliance with floodplain regulations.

As for historical preservation, Metzger said, "One thing that was identified through the environmental review through the State Office of Parks and Historic Preservation is that we are in a potentially archaeologically sensitive area. As such, we would commit to -- actually, we've started the process of doing a phase 1A and a phase 1B study. We will do that and provide the results prior to a request for a building permit."

During the board discussion, Marshall indicated he didn't agree that the project would have no traffic impact.

"I just think it's way too much volume for that intersection through the interchange," he said.

Board member Greg Kuras said he thought the additional travel plaza would actually help with truck traffic, especially during winter storms.

"Whenever you get storms, you get the states basically begging for parking spots for these things," Kuras said. "They want to get them off of (routes) 5 and 77. It's better to have a big parking lot for them than having them sit on the road."

Photo: Tractor trailer fire on Thruway in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens
truck fire thurway

Town of Batavia responded this evening to a fully involved tractor-trailer fire on the Thruway in the area of Genesee Community College.

Photo by Steve Ognibene.

Dispatchers receive iPhone crash indicator on Thruway

By Howard B. Owens

Dispatchers have received an iPhone crash indicator on the Thruway in the area of 379.4 in the eastbound lane.

There is no voice contact.  No answer on callback.

Le Roy Fire and Le Roy Ambulance dispatched.

UPDATE 7:25 p.m.: It doesn't look like a crash. A vehicle is on the shoulder with its four-ways on. Two men are out of the vehicle, walking.  The ambulance is canceled.

UPDATE 7:29 p.m.: The occupants had apparently lost a phone.  They found it.  Le Roy Fire is back in service.

Town planners give go ahead to travel center and apartments proposed for Pembroke

By Howard B. Owens
michael metzger genesee county planning board 2023
Engineer Michael Metzer presents plans for a 144-unit apartment complex on Alleghany Road in Pembroke to the Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday night.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Business growth in Pembroke is keeping Clarence-based engineer Michael Metzger busy.

He had two projects on the County Planning Board agenda on Thursday night -- a new travel center at the Thruway interchange and a 144-unit apartment complex proposed for Alleghany Road.

Earlier this year, Metzger was the engineer who helped present plans for a $142 million distribution center that is currently under construction next to the Thruway.

"Some of it is, quite frankly, driven by STAMP," Metzger told The Batavian after the planning board meeting.  "The apartment project that was presented tonight, by all means. Between the STAMP facility, what's been going on there, what's anticipated to be happening there, and the construction going on now at the interchange that will result in hundreds of new people working in that area, that's what Mr. (Mike) Schmidt (the apartment complex developer) is hoping for and planning for with (the apartment) project."

STAMP is the WNY Science, Technology & Advanced Manufacturing Park under construction in the Town of Alabama. The site is a 1,250-acre industrial park. Plug Power is building a $290 million hydrogen production facility on 50 acres of the park. Last fall, Edwards Vacuum announced plans to build a $319 million manufacturing plant on the site.

The distribution center planned for the interchange is being built by Horizon Acres Associations of Spring Valley and Geis Companies, based in Ohio.

The 144-unit apartment complex is proposed for 8900 Alleghany Road, about halfway between Cohocton Road and Route 5.  Immediately to the south of the currently wooded 8.2-acre lot is a farm field and a long-abandoned gas station.  A single-family home is on the land to the north.  The property is zoned limited commercial and agricultural-residential.

The County Planning Board recommended approval of the project pending approval of an application for a water hookup, a DEC review of any possible endangered species, and consultation with the Corfu Volunteer Fire Department on the potential need for another access point to the property.

The complex will be built in phases of 24 units each, for a total of six 24-unit buildings.  There will also be some garages available to some tenants.

The property will include stormwater retention ponds, though Metzger, after learning the Town of Pembroke requires "ponds" to be fenced, is no longer going to call them ponds in his plans since they won't always contain water. 

"They will be designed in accordance with the state stormwater regulations, which means that they have a safety bench around them, a shallow area, so that if someone should inadvertently end up in it, which is highly unlikely, but if they do, they can simply walk out," Metzger said.

As for the travel center, Metzger, after the meeting, declined to say who the tenant for the new facility will be.  The developer is, again, Geis.

The travel plaza will include diesel and gasoline fuel pumps, a convenience store with a drive-thru, and a car wash.

The lot is 46.6 acres, and the majority of the land is federally protected wetlands. The travel center will sit in the center of the property, on higher ground and not wetlands.  The developed area will be 16.6 acres.

The high ground is currently farmland.

Murder Creek runs through the property.

The property is directly across Route 77 from the TA Travel Plaza, and current plans call for the four-land driveway (two lanes in each direction) to align with TA's driveway. 

In addition to the TA Travel Plaza, Flying-J and Speedway also both have locations at the 48-A interchange.

Asked about the attraction for the developer to an interchange that already has three places for travelers to stop for fuel and supplies and a bit of rest, Metzger explained that the fact there are other travel businesses already at the interchange is exactly what makes it appealing to another travel plaza business.  The more locations at an interchange, he explained, the more likely travelers are to choose that interchange as a place for a break.

"There are times when you have one type of business at an interchange, such as a restaurant or a gas station, and it gets passed by because there isn't any interest," Metzger said. "It's a human nature thing to be attracted to other activity. So when there is an interchange that already has some activity, even if it could potentially be considered competitors, it has a tendency to attract a lot more traffic."

michael metzger genesee county planning board 2023
Engineer Michael Metzger presents plans for a new travel plaza at the Thruway interchange in Pembroke to the Genesee County Planning Board on Thrusday.
Photo by Howard Owens.

Truck and trailer rollover accident reported on the Thruway

By Howard B. Owens

A truck and trailer rollover accident is reported in the eastbound lane of the Thruway in the area of mile marker 397.8.

No word on injuries.

East Pembroke Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 11:09 a.m.: No injuries. The Thruway is blocked by the truck and trailer.

Pembroke service area reopens, features Burger King, Popeyes, and Dunkin'

By Press Release
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Pembroke service area reopens on the thruway eastbound

Press Release:

The New York State Thruway Authority today announced the new Pembroke Service Area (I-90 eastbound mile marker 397) in Corfu is now open to the public.

The location is the tenth new service area to open to Thruway customers as part of the $450 million project to redevelop and modernize all 27 Thruway service areas. The New Baltimore, Clarence, Ardsley, Plattekill, Clifton Springs, Iroquois, Indian Castle, Chittenango and Junius Ponds Service Areas have reopened.

The Pembroke Service Area is located on I-90 eastbound between exit 48A and exit 48. The facility is more than 20,000 square feet making it one of the largest new buildings on the system.

Restaurant options include:

  • Burger King
  • Popeyes
  • Panera Bread (opening later this year)
  • Dunkin’ (drive-thru)
  • Applegreen C-Store
  • Taste NY Food and Drink Products

Other amenities include:

  • Playground area*
  • Outdoor seating
  • Dog walking area
  • Climate controlled pet enclosure*
  • Private nursing area
  • Digital tourism kiosk*
  • Six level 3 high-speed EV chargers*

 *Available Soon

The Pembroke Service Area is one of four locations on the Thruway that has expanded amenities for commercial vehicle drivers.

Commercial trucking amenities include:

  • Separate entrance
  • Lounge
  • Showers
  • Lockers
  • Restrooms
  • Washer and dryer

With the opening of the Pembroke Service Area, the Angola Service Area (I-90 eastbound and westbound, mile marker 447) and the Scottsville Service Area (I-90 eastbound, mile marker 366) are now closed for construction. Fuel services remain available at all service areas during construction.

All 27 service areas are being redeveloped in a $450 million project with Empire State Thruway Partners. The project is funded through a public-private partnership, and no toll or tax dollars are used for construction.

Customers can learn more about the project on the Thruway Authority’s website. Customers can view a project map, photo gallery, renderings, and more information about the planned amenities and services.

In 2022, motorists took more than 376 million trips and drove 7.7 billion miles on the Thruway. The Thruway Authority’s service areas are open 24 hours a day and offer motorists a variety of food and beverage options, restroom facilities, and fueling for passenger and commercial vehicles. Taste NY Farm Markets and Tourism Information Centers are also available at select locations.

Photo courtesy of NYS Thruway website

Van strikes tree off Thruway in Pembroke

By Howard B. Owens

A van has reportedly left the roadway and struck a tree in the area of mile marker 404.6 in the eastbound lane of the Thruway.

Unknown injuries.

Pembroke Fire, Indian Falls FIre, and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 1:50 a.m.: No injuries. 

Accident reported on Thruway in Pembroke

By Howard B. Owens

There is a vehicle into the median in the area of mile marker 402, eastbound, on the Thruway.

Unknown injuries.

Pembroke Fire and Indian Falls fire departments, along with Mercy EMS responding.

State Police investigating fatal crash on Thruway

By Howard B. Owens

The name of the victim of a fatal crash on the Thruway yesterday afternoon has not yet been released by State Police.

Troopers have confirmed one person died in the crash reported at 12:13 p.m. in the area of mile marker 396.6 in the westbound lane.

Two passenger vehicles and a tractor-trailer were involved. According to initial reports, a vehicle rolled over, and a person was ejected.

No other injuries were reported by troopers.

Rollover accident reported on Thruway

By Howard B. Owens

A rollover accident is reported on the Thruway in the area of mile marker 396.6 in the westbound lane.

There is possible ejection of an occupant. 

Mercy Flight is on in-air standby.

East Pembroke Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 12:25 p.m.: A medic on scene reports that Mercy Flight is not required at the scene.

UPDATE 12:40 p.m.: One patient transported to ECMC.

Accident reported on Thruway in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

A motor vehicle accident with one car over the guard rail is reported on the Thruway in the area of mile marker 388.5, with unknown injuries.

Town of Batavia Fire and Le Roy Ambulance dispatched.

 

Accident reported on the Thruway in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

A motor vehicle accident is reported on the Thruway with injuries at mile maker 393 in the eastbound lane.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched. 

UPDATE 3:44 p.m.: One lane blocked. One patient with a possible leg injury.

Thruway Authority says 'no one should’ve been traveling' when Winter Storm Elliott hit

By Howard B. Owens

The NYS Thruway Authority has taken exception to reporting by The Batavian that the agency had no plan on Dec. 23 when it closed the portion of the I-90 going through Genesee County to route motorists away from the affected storm area.

In a Dec. 29 story about the response of the Oakfield and Alabama fire departments to rescue travelers, The Batavian reported:

The dangers of the storm were exacerbated by a Thruway Authority that shut down the I-90 with no plan to send travelers on safe routes and with Google and Apple map technology ill-equipped to warn drivers of dangerous weather conditions and send them on routes that would take them around the hazardous roads. 

In another story published that same day, we reported:

As hundreds of travelers learned on Friday, their trip on the Thruway would get abruptly cut off when a travel ban was issued and a large portion of the Thruway closed.

Jessica Mazurowski, public information officer for the Thruway cited both of these stories in an email to The Batavian on Thursday, saying she "wanted to make a few points to you about the storm."

Mazurowski wrote:

It’s unclear who is making this statement -- the paper or the County Manager. However, on Friday, when these people were traveling, and the Thruway closed, no one should’ve been traveling. Travel bans were already in effect in Erie and Genesee Counties, as well as surrounding areas. We close or issue travel bans in direct coordination with state and local entities to ensure everyone is on the same page.

All major media outlets across New York were reporting on this storm days in advance. Erie County and Genesee County both issued travel advisories on Thursday, Dec. 22 and upgraded them to travel bans on Friday, Dec. 23. The Thruway Authority announced the commercial vehicle ban on Thursday, Dec. 22 and began messaging on digital highway signs into Pennsylvania, to the Massachusetts state line and down to New York City. Messaging was also on social media, our website, and our mobile app, not just on the commercial vehicle ban but about the severity of the storm and urging motorists not to drive.   When the full vehicle ban was announced on I-90 from exit 46 to the PA state line, the messaging was on digital highway signs statewide and into PA, on social media and our website, and mobile app.

The Batavian's reporting is based on statements from multiple sources, not just County Manager Matt Landers, that the vast majority of people being rescued or seeking shelter in the homes of residents or warming shelters were from out of state and were forced off the Thruway in Genesee County with no idea of the local travel ban, the looming storm, its location, or the hazardous conditions a storm of this magnitude might manifest.

Our sources include other government officials, volunteer firefighters, tow-truck operators, residents who provided shelter, and some of the motorists themselves.

After receiving her email, The Batavian sent multiple questions to Mazurowski and received no response.

We wanted to know, If the Thruway Authority had prior knowledge of the dangers of the storm, why did it take so long to institute a travel ban?  Were travelers provided enough time to exit the Thruway before reaching the hazard zone?

Why was there no signage or traffic control at the Thruway exits to ensure travelers did not head north of the Thruway once they were in Genesee County?  Or was there signage we don't know about, and travelers just ignored it?

Our story stated the TA had no plan to deal with the unsafe conditions for travelers before dumping motorists off the I-90 onto rural roads.  We wrote to her, "Nothing in your response indicates the TA did, in fact, did have a plan in place to ensure the safety of travelers once they exited the Thruway." 

We noted to Mazurowski that it is unrealistic to expect all travelers to be aware of weather conditions, travel bans, or have familiarity with blizzards and lake effect snow (several sources told The Batavian, in fact, that many travelers had never encountered conditions such as they saw in Oakfield and Alabama on Friday and Saturday).

Motorists and passengers may not have tuned into terrestrial radio or have downloaded the appropriate apps to receive alerts. 

We asked, "Is it reasonable for the TA to assume that ALL travelers were aware of the hazards ahead?  Shouldn't it be foreseeable by the TA that some percentage of travelers will be unaware and unprepared, or engage in a blind unwillingness to listen to good advice?  Shouldn't the TA take precautions to help protect people from their own lack of knowledge and experience?"

We concluded, "So the question remains, what was the TA's plan to route travelers off the i-90 to safe locations?"

We followed up with Mazurowski on Friday and received a response that she was out of the office and to direct any questions to the general email address for the public information office.  We did. And still did not receive answers to these questions.

Thruway Authority institutes travel ban from Henrietta to Pennsylvannia

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

TRAVEL ALERT - ALL VEHICLE BAN IN EFFECT UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: Due the high wind, winter storm, and blizzard warnings in Western New York, a BAN ON ALL VEHICLES is in effect on I-90 from exit 46 (Henrietta) to the PA line and I-190 from I-90 to exit 22 (Route 62) until further notice. See real-time traffic cameras at thruway.ny.gov/travelers.

Fully involved vehicle fire reported on Thruway following collision with truck

By Howard B. Owens

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A vehicle fire is reported following a collision between a tractor-trailer and a passenger car.

Both occupants are out of the car.

A chief approaching reports heavy black smoke.

The Thruway is blocked.

Pembroke and Indian Falls initially dispatched with mutual aid from Corfu but the location now appears to be in East Pembroke's district, so an East Pembroke chief dispatched.

UPDATE 12:28 p.m.: The westbound Thruway is going to be "shut down for a while," a chief advises. There is also a large fuel spill. The Thruway is asked to assist with traffic control.  The accident may involve two trucks. One truck is "burned off" and whatever fuel was there is gone "but I don't know how much has gone down into the ditch," says a chief.

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.  Two semi-trucks were involved, no passenger vehicle. One driver transported to an area hospital for evaluation. The burned out truck was hauling bags of soup.

Photos by Jim Reinhardt, except bottom photo.

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Photo submitted by Marge Behl.

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