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FIRM'S BANKRUPTCY WON'T DERAIL BROADWAY PROJECT

The bankruptcy of a second company involved in rebuilding Broadway (Route 130) in Cheektowaga and Depew is not expected to further delay a project that is already about a year behind schedule.

Work along the busy stretch of highway between Union and Transit roads should resume Monday and is still on schedule for completion by Nov. 30, state Department of Transportation officials said.

The contractor, A&L of Pittsburgh, pulled its crews off the job June 12 after the bonding company declared insolvency.

That followed the bankruptcy last July of Frontier Asphalt of Hamburg, the original contractor.

"It is unusual enough for a contractor to go bankrupt, but to then have the surety company fail is probably unprecedented, if not in the state, then certainly in the Western New York (area)," said Robert E. O'Connor, state DOT regional construction engineer.

O'Connor said that although A&L stopped work, it continued to maintain traffic flow and keep driveways open.

The $9.3 million project began in early 1999 and was supposed to be finished by December 2000.

But when Frontier Asphalt defaulted last summer, dozens of businesses and residents along the 2.7-mile stretch were forced to endure a second winter with excavations, orange traffic cones and two lanes of traffic instead of four.

Some businesses and shop owners have complained that the project has cut their normal business almost in half.

The bankruptcy of the contractor brought the company that posted the performance bond -- identified by state officials as Amwest Surety Insurance Co. of Nebraska -- into the picture.

Amwest hired A&L to finish the job, and the large Pittsburgh contractor began work last spring, only to have Amwest default this month. Now the backup bonding company on the contract, identified as Swiss Reinsurance America Corp., of Armonk, has rehired A&L and is working out a new agreement, O'Connor said.

"They're mobilizing now and should be back there in full force starting Monday," said Benedict T. Borruso, DOT construction supervisor.

Borruso said extra work resulting from unforeseen "field conditions" has increased the total project cost to $10.2 million. The job is about 70 percent complete, according to Kim E. Silvestro, the DOT engineer in charge.

"It's been a very difficult job for both our staff and the community, but the taxpayers' investment has been well-protected," O'Connor said. "The community has been extremely patient, and we appreciate that."

The job involves the complete reconstruction of Broadway between Union and Transit, except for a narrow, four-lane stretch of road that curves beneath three railroad bridges east of Dick Road. When finished, the road will have sidewalks as well as new curbs and storm sewers.

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