July 14, 2008
Route 281 work affects businesses
Car dealerships increase advertising to offset loss of drive-by traffic
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
A National Grid worker watches a lineman work on a pole near the car dealerships on Route 281. Construction has crept close to the front doors of many businesses, some of which said they have seen a decline in sales because of the roadwork.
With Route 281 construction under way, some local businesses are feeling the affects of less vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
“Since the construction we have started seeing customers change their shopping habits,” said Bill O’Gorman, a sales manager for Cortland Chrysler Dodge and Jeep. “Because people see the traffic and the construction they are rescheduling their appointments. Vehicle sales have also been affected. Buyers aren’t interested in having to fight traffic to see you.”
The first phase of the state’s $32 million project to widen a four-mile stretch of Route 281 began in late April. The contractor is a local company, Economy Paving, which submitted the lowest bid for the project’s first phase that stretches from Lime Hollow Road on Route 13 to Luker Road on Route 281, totaling about $12 million.
Al Jenney, co-owner of Sugar and Spice diner, said the construction delays and rerouting of traffic has affected business dramatically.
“We have seen a 20 percent to 25 percent decrease in business since the construction began,” Jenney said. “Once they get clear of us, I’m sure business will pick up again.”
Some businesses such as Cortland Chrysler Dodge and Jeep have been increasing their budgets for advertising to offset the decline of traffic.
“There is still a percentage of impulse buyers that drive by and see something of interest and when traffic decreases, that type of buyer is not going to see and therefore not buy,” O’Gorman said. “The things we have tried to do is limit the effects of road construction and one thing was increase advertising to make up for what we’re not getting from the road. The increased expenses to make up for what we’re not getting and the decreased traffic all affect the bottom line.”
Joe Reagan, owner of Royal Motor Co., said once the actual widening of the road takes place, he also plans to increase the company’s advertising budget.
“The road is not as busy as it used to be,” Reagan said. “We will have to advertise rather than rely on people to drive by.”
Although Reagan is a little concerned about future construction, he said he has not been losing business.
“I don’t think it’s because of the road construction, I’m busier because it’s that time of year for me,” he said.
Jon Golden, assistant store manager of Auto Zone, an auto parts store, also said business has not decreased since the construction, but has noticed a difference in when customers are coming to the store.
“We haven’t lost sales, we just get it at a different time of the day,” Golden said. “It’s really slow in the morning and afternoon, then from 5 to 9 (p.m.) we get hammered.”
Scott Becker, owner of 281 Bowl, said he has definitely noticed people are avoiding Route 281 for travel, however, because bowling is more seasonal and leagues wrap up in early summer months, the construction has not really affected his business.
“They (state Department of Transportation) are acquiring a part of the front parking lot, but it’s not affecting the building at all,” he added.
Mike Moffitt, owner of Pets A Plenty in the West Road Plaza, said his store is not affected by the construction but he is worried about when the work moves up the road toward his store.
“If it gets blocked off bad, I don’t know how many people will want to come down here,” Moffitt said, adding that if business gets slow he may implement a delivery service.
Pat Bartolone, owner of Dugout Sports in the same plaza, said he is not too concerned by the roadwork.
“It hasn’t affected me at all yet and I don’t anticipate a problem,” he said. “I think I’ll be OK.”
The second phase of the project will stretch from Luker Road to Interstate 81’s Exit 12 in Homer. The state has yet to bid on the project.
From Lime Hollow Road to Wheeler Avenue, the highway will be expanded into five lanes. There will be two lanes going in each direction and a center turning lane.
The road will be tapered down to three lanes from Wheeler Avenue north to the I-81 Exit 12 in Homer. The road will have a short four-lane section through the city waterworks as well.
Josh Ribakove, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the majority of the widening and resurfacing work will be done next year, and the DOT expects to complete the project by the end of the 2010 construction season.
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