SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) - The sudden shutdown of the old Route 219 bridge is blocking a major artery to the heart of Springville. Struggling businesses are fighting to survive.
When state transportation officials shut down the old Route 219 bridge over Cattaraugus Creek, it was a blow to businesses on both ends of the bridge, already stung by the new Route 219 bypass that was taking vital traffic flow away from the heart of this growing commercial strip.
Bill Gugino of B&B Homes said, "This is one of their busiest times of the year, right now, with all the traffic coming from Canada, going down to Ellicottville. So it is a huge amount of traffic that we are missing completely."
But businesses on the Springville side of the bridge in Erie County and the Ashford side in Cattaraugus County are fighting back. A petition drive is underway, on paper and on the web, that has gained thousands of signatures in just two days, demanding the State Department of Transportation fix the bridge and get traffic flowing again.
"We are basically going to fight every which way we can," said Gugino.
DOT officials are studying the bridge's aging sub-structure, which they say might have to be replaced. But each day the bridge is close, thousands of dollars are lost and business owners say they can't get it back. Route 219 Antiques owner Karen O'Hara told News 4 that last Wednesday, for the first time ever, she netted one dollar - by selling a post card.
"It's a scary thought. That has never happened, in over five years. In five years I have never had a day where I only sold one item," said O'Hara.
O'Hara, a former "Mrs. New York," says she houses 60 antiques dealers in store. And while they all want the old bridge to be safe, the state needs to understand what is at stake.
She warned, "Time is of the essence. Small businesses can't survive without traffic. So we need to find a way to get the bridge opened safely, but at the same time, quickly."
Springville business owners, residents, and political leaders are organizing a rally this coming Saturday along the old Route 219, now known simply as South Cascade Drive, to get state officials' attention. Business owners say they have to make it clear: the Towns of Concord and Ashford are on the ropes.
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