PLATTSBURGH -- For several weeks, downtown merchants have dealt with the disruption of road construction.

While they know that once the work is done their customers will drive on beautiful roads, having patience is the hard part.

"I'm glad they are doing this, but it's affecting my business right now," said Harold Benjamin, owner of Benji's Cafe on Margaret Street.

City Engineer Kevin Farrington met with downtown merchants Friday morning to assuage their concerns.

Work has been chugging along on Upper Bridge Street and Margaret Street for several weeks now.

Although it does not affect downtown directly, work has also disrupted traffic in the north end of the city on Weed Street.

Farrington told business owners that the completion date for the downtown work is June 23.

"We're pretty close to being on schedule, and we should have the bulk of the work, if not all of it, done by then," he said.

Next week will be perhaps the biggest challenge as the Margaret/Upper Bridge Street intersection will be re-paved.

That section of Margaret Street will have to be shut down and traffic rerouted up one-way Protection Avenue and Court Street.

"I might as well shut down next week because people are not even walking downtown now," Benjamin said.

Patty Waldron, owner of the Koffee Kat on Margaret Street, said this particular project has several intersections tied up at once.

"People are not enjoying coming downtown," she said.

Dave Boise, owner of Villari's Studio of Self Defense on Margaret Street, said more advance notice of projects would help merchants.

"We need to be able to tell our clients that this is going to be happening," he said.

Farrington said the $4 million project is paid for mostly by state and federal funds, with the city portion being only 5 percent.

"It's a short construction season, and to get $4 million of work done in 120 days is tight," he said.

"But it's a tradeoff. Do we do less work at a time and stretch it out longer or not?"

Ted Luck, president of Luck Brothers Inc., the firm doing the downtown road construction, said his crews are carefully orchestrating the remaining work to minimize the impact on the traveling public.

He said they made a point not to tear up the Margaret/Cornelia Street intersection until the Lower Bridge Street/City Hall Place intersection was paved.

To speed things up, the Upper Bridge/Margaret Street and Cornelia/Margaret Street intersections will be done at the same time next week, Luck said.

"They will be done at the same time beginning next Tuesday in an attempt to speed along the project to completion and basically cut in half the time for disruption to traffic and the merchants for that remaining work, which is the last pavement reconstruction left to be done," Luck said.

The Upper Bridge Street portion of the project did turn up a few snags, he said.

"There was a lot of unanticipated work relating to two underground vaults that were discovered and had to be closed off and backfilled.

"The remaining work in that area is very complicated, time-consuming and has to be performed in layers, so to speak, and cannot be expedited just by putting more workers on the project."

Farrington said business owners are notified by mail of upcoming projects. He offered to hold more meetings like Friday's in order to address concerns.

"This is a good project, and like any good project it requires a little patience and tolerance, but it will be worth it," Farrington said.

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