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BUSINESSES FRET OVER REBUILDING OF N. BUFFALO ROAD

For Orchard Park business owners, spring fever may have some nasty symptoms this year.

With the reconstruction of North Buffalo Road scheduled to start in April, many owners of businesses along the thoroughfare are worried about what spring will bring.

"Everyone is extremely concerned," said Gerard Cappelli, owner of Cappelli's Pizza. "When these things happen, you find if they can't make it through the long haul, they wind up closing their doors."

The $8 million, two-year project involves reconstructing Routes 24 0/2 77 from Route 20 south through the Village of Orchard Park. The work is scheduled to kick off this year with reconstruction of the northern segment of the road.

Joe Polchlopek, assistant regional design engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said the project will be completed in three sections, reaching the final segment through the Village of Orchard Park next year.

During construction, Polchlopek said, temporary pavement will be installed to accommodate two-way traffic throughout the work area. Contractors will also be required to complete a car pool lot near Route 219 and a parking lot on Princeton Avenue in the village to take up some of the slack for lost parking.

"We're trying to everything possible to minimize the impact to businesses," Polchlopek said.

Nancy Conley, executive director of the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce, said her group will do all it can to help businesses. She said the Chamber has started by sending a mailing to about 350 businesses in the zone that could be affected, seeking e-mail, telephone and fax contacts so they can be reached quickly.

She said the Chamber has targeted businesses along the road, but also as far east as the village line and as far west as Taylor Road's intersection with Route 20A, even though construction won't reach the village until 2002.

"People may think it won't have an impact on the village until construction is 'at my doorstep,' " she said. "But people will begin to search for alternate routes to avoid the construction. They're going to feel the pinch as soon as construction begins."

Conley said the Chamber is also looking into setting up a "mini-trade show" of banks, giving them a chance to show what they can do for short-term or long-term loans for businesses.

"Think of yourself as a business," she said. "Suddenly your cash flow is interrupted, and you're going to have to have a way to get through. Instead of scrambling from bank to bank, we as a Chamber want to approach banks to say, 'Put something good on the table' and have them all in one place at one time."

Conley also said she expects to meet weekly with the Transportation Department's project engineer to try to smooth out problems.

"The DOT is saying everything will go as smoothly as it can go, but we know there'll be problems," she said. "Things will pop up, but it's difficult to anticipate what they are."

Business owners say they welcome any help they can get.

"The time of the year, it's going to make a big difference to us," said Irene Saville, owner of a produce and gardening center. "If they're right out in front of us during the summer when we have produce to sell, it's a big concern."

Saville said she plans to talk to the DOT about maintaining access and providing signs to let people know her business is open.

Carl Burgwardt said he was uncertain how the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum would be affected.

"Our promotion is out there," he said. "People are going to come. Once they're on their way, they're probably going to go through the construction to get there."

Cappelli said he has considered renting space to create a "satellite operation" with a limited menu farther south in the village if the construction hurts his business too much.

"I'm not going to do that expense unless things really drop off," he said. "My first plan is having a plan in place."

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