bCynthia Stevens of Hollidaysburg encountered some unexpected difficulties getting to Park Furniture in downtown Juniata on Wednesday, the day after workers started ripping up North Fourth Avenue for a streetscape project.
Heading past the store in the remaining open lane, unable to park on the avenue, Stevens' husband pulled into a dentist's lot, dropped her off and went to find a place to park.
"This is ridiculous," Stevens said, echoing store owner John Muccitelli, who lamented business lost by potential customers put off by the project's new traffic restrictions - including a "Road Closed" sign on Eighth Street that kept motorists from entering the back alley that is now his only real access.
By Thursday morning, PennDOT had added a sign permitting alley access for Park Furniture and several other businesses on the even side of the 600 block of North Fourth Avenue.
Reading "Access to Local Businesses Use Alley," it was an interim solution to a problem PennDOT plans to rectify more formally within a week with a sign listing all the stranded businesses by name, according to Roger Dodson, assistant district executive for construction for PennDOT District 9.
But the interim and longer-term solution didn't appease Muccitelli.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Workers from Gordon L. DeLozier Inc. of Hollidaysburg tear up pavement in the northbound lane of North Fourth Avenue Wednesday in Juniata.
They should help, but "it's [still] a fiasco," he said.
Muccitelli believes PennDOT should be working the three-block project not only one lane at a time, but in small sections.
That would restrict access to his front for a shorter period, he said.
Sandy Schwabenbauer, owner of Peterman's Florist, was likewise unappeased by PennDOT's adjustment Thursday and its promise of a longer-term fix.
"That would be great if they would do that," she said of the promised sign listing the alley-access businesses. "[But] it should have been done right from the beginning."
PennDOT had promised adequate signs from the beginning, said Schwabenbauer, who said she has been frustrated by the delays in getting the streetscape project under way.
The addition of the alley-access sign softened the worries of Propelled Motion boat repair shop owner Dwayne Poorman. He feared Wednesday that the access difficulty, especially for customers pulling boat trailers, could put him out of business with his busy period just beginning.
"It's nice to see something in place," said Poorman, who, along with Muccitelli, supplemented the new PennDOT sign with one of his own at the mouth of the alley pointing the way to his shop. "I'm in a much better mood than yesterday."
Sometimes a detour can look good on paper, with problems becoming obvious only when it's put into practice, Dodson said Thursday.
But the department works with businesses to mitigate access problems, he said.
It did so with businesses near the 18th Street culvert under the mainline tracks a few years ago, and the owners appreciated it, he said.
Schwabenbauer will need to see more to come around.
"[Thursday's sign] really doesn't explain anything," she said.
She was losing business, getting about half the expected walk-in traffic Thursday, she said. Potential customers were calling all day on both Wednesday and Thursday in confusion.
By contrast, Jim Hennaman of Captain Hook's Hotel bar was unperturbed, even on Wednesday.
Business was a little slow, and access was a "little tough," but his customers normally use the alley anyway, and he figured things would get better if and when PennDOT put up a sign like the one they actually put up Thursday, he said.
Accessing the alley from Eighth Avenue remained a little tricky Thursday, as motorists had to cross oncoming detour traffic, then belly into the left - or wrong - lane to get around the "Road Closed" sign, then drive 200 feet to reach the alley mouth.
The access problem was not as acute on the west side of North Fourth Avenue, where intersecting streets connect with parallel Fifth Avenue.
That was reflected in the attitude of Greg Griffin, new owner of Greg's Grill at the Hot Dog Shoppe.
In contrast to Muccitelli and Schwabenbauer, Griffin looked ahead to completion of the project, when the dreary strip will be "shiny new."
"You've got to crack a couple eggs to make an omelet," Griffin said.
He figures he'll offset any customer losses meanwhile by feeding the construction workers.
Representatives of PennDOT and Gordon L. Delozier Inc., contractor for the $2 million project, have been "upfront" with him, he said.
When complete, the work will inspire building owners to upgrade and stimulate business growth, Griffin predicted.
"I'm upbeat," he said.
Poorman was ambivalent, for now.
"We'll just see how this goes," he said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.