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Rethinking eases closing of busy road

On July 5, Karen Erickson opened a letter that told her Lake Shore Road would be closed from the following Monday through Aug. 31.

That's the stretch between Beach and Waterman roads, the length of road that includes Town of Evans Beach and Mickey Rats nightclub.

It also contains Connor's hot dog stand, a business owned by Erickson's family.

"The way they originally sent the letter, you were not getting to these businesses for eight weeks," said Erickson, who is also an Evans councilwoman. "If that had happened, I think we would have just closed.

"We wouldn't have needed those 26 students who are working for us."

But that's not what's happening now.

Erickson said she and Supervisor Robert Catalino II met with Erie County Legislator Robert Reynolds and engineer Charles Sickler of the county's Highway Department and convinced them to intercede.

"We persuaded the construction company to only shut it down for four days and keep the road open the rest of the summer," Reynolds said, "although there might be minor delays and temporary shutdowns . . . But no long-term ones.

"We want to keep that road open for the summer."

It would have been particularly problematic for the town since the Taste of Evans is being held at the town park Sunday.

Sickler said the situation may have arisen because residents frequently find it less painful for contractors to come in, shut everything down and get the work done as quickly as possible. So that's what contractors frequently do.

But not in a seasonal, tourist economy.

"The work is probably going to take a little bit longer, but the businesses said they'd rather have that than the total shutdown and the impact on their operations," he said. "That was the reason we intervened. Shutting it down wasn't fair to the businesses."

The project has a cost of $1.4 million and includes the replacement of a 1930s-era bridge over Delaware Creek.

But since Erie County planned to replace the "forced main" sewer lines over the creek, it was decided to replace sewer and water lines in conjunction with the bridge work.

The bridge is 90 percent done, Sickler said. It's the sewer and water line work that will make up most of the work extending into the fall. Drivers are using a temporary bridge over the creek; it will be removed when work is complete.

Erickson credited Reynolds and Sickler for moving quickly to make sure the road wasn't closed, but said she was perplexed how it could have been planned in the first place.

"We didn't get notified until Thursday, and it would have started on Monday," she said. "Probably whoever in the county sets up the jobs doesn't come out and look at the area, and it's probably not a big deal most of the time.

"But if you're shutting down businesses that only have a short season, it could be an economic disaster.

Erickson estimated the influx of summer visitors to parks, cottages, restaurants, bars and other area attractions at about 10,000 people coming in and out of the town on a regular basis.

Catalino was not available for comment on Thursday.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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