Patience has worn thin for one business in Virgil that has spent months trying to stay afloat during the reconstruction of the village’s main thoroughfare.
“This has been going on since March. You think they would have some better organization,” said Martin Mazza, who owns Italian Pizza & Subs on Niagara Stone Road.
Businesses in the area have seen declines in sales during construction, he added, leaving them on edge.
“They are all frustrated,” he said.
Likewise, Mellissa Hunter, manager of the Avondale convenience store in the Village Green Plaza, said business at the store had been adversely affected by the construction.
“We were down all summer,” she said. “It’s been kind of hard.”
There were “a decent amount” of regulars still making their way to the store, but more casual customers were lost, she said.
“People were getting stuck in the traffic for 15 or 20 minutes,” she said.
The work, which began in March and was supposed to have been completed by now, includes new storm sewers, a middle lane for left-turning vehicles from Four Mile Creek to Line 1 roads, plus new signals, sidewalks, crosswalks, overhead lighting and landscaping features.
Niagara Region is funding 80 per cent of the reconstruction’s $10-million cost while the town and Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro are chipping in the remainder.
Mike Wilson, the director of capital projects for the region, said the project was “always targeted to be substantially complete” by the end of the fall and is on track to meet that goal.
“It’s been moving along very well,” he said.
By “substantially complete,” Wilson said there may be small things that have to be completed in the spring.
Those leftover items would not impact traffic or businesses in the area, he said.
Things such as moving utility cables underground, plantings, asphalt and a parkette will be finished.
He emphasized that the project has entailed a lot of collaboration among the region, the town and utility companies.
“There are multiple stakeholders,” he said. “This is the first time doing this kind of project.”
Mazza, meanwhile, is relieved that paving is done, but added the project is by no means near completion, as concrete crosswalks were still being installed.
A traffic light at the entrance to the LCBO that was removed needs to be replaced, landscaping work still needs to be done.
The crosswalk issue is a concern for him.
“I found out the guys doing the work (Rankin Construction) advised the region against these stamped concrete crosswalks because they are slippery, especially when they get wet,” Mazza said.
Wilson said Mazza is correct about the safety concern over the crosswalks – but measures had been taken to ensure they are safe once installed.
“This is the first time we have used stamped concrete rather than individual stones,” he said. “Once they are complete, we’re going to come in and scour the surface.”
Crosswalks on side streets connected to Niagara Stone Road were replaced first, “to try and keep the traffic following,” Wilson said.
NOTL regional Coun. Andrea Kaiser said she appreciated that the ongoing work has been tough on businesses in the area.
“The end result is going to be so much better,” she said. “It has been short-term pain for long-term gain. Hopefully in the long-term, the businesses will benefit.”
While the project was approved prior to her being elected to regional council in 2022, she supported the improvements and said there was “a lot of community engagement” prior to the project going ahead.
“I believe at the time, there were discussions with the business owners,” she said.
Mazza’s restaurant has already had to battle through the COVID-19 pandemic and an industry-wide problem of attracting and retaining staff, he said.
Now, he said, he has had to navigate the road reconstruction and problems brought about by it.
Over the course of construction, power to his business has been cut off on several occasions, as have his gas and cable connections.
“I know there’s gonna be hiccups. I know there’s going to be issues,” he said. “But, it just seemed like one hiccup after another.”
Meanwhile, for her part, Hunter is feeling optimistic.
“It’s getting a little bit better,” she said of business at the store. “It’s getting a little busier in the mornings. Things are starting to pick up now that (construction) is finishing up.”