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As Busline Revs Up, Businesses Take Hit

As Busline Revs Up, Businesses Take Hit By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter As workers donning orange hard hats work away on the Metro Orange Line busway project in Canoga Park, some nearby businesses are hurting because of a street closure associated with construction. The Orange Line, an ambitious 14-mile bus route that will connect East Valley to the West from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills is about 30 percent done now, and is scheduled to be completed in August 2005. But Nader Naziri, owner of Warner Jr. Market, a liquor store in a strip mall on the northwest corner at the intersection of Victory Boulevard and Variel Avenue, wishes that date came sooner. His business has been hit hard by closures of the parking lot entrance on Variel and the shutdown of westbound lanes of traffic on Victory. “As long as they have worked here, business is down 60 to 70 percent,” Naziri said. “A lot of my customers are from the office buildings they don’t have time to stand in line in the street (waiting to make a left turn).” Naziri is not an opponent of the busway, however. He said he anticipates the Orange Line when completed would bring him more business. But before that happens, he is barely able to afford paying the $2,000 in rent for the store. “I pay the rent from my pocket,” Naziri said. “The busway is very good but if it goes like this, I’ll lose everything I have.” Construction is in progress throughout the Orange Line route with four out of 33 intersections due to close or partially close, said Roger Dames, deputy executive officer and Orange Line project manager. Intersections already completed are along Tujunga Avenue, Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Whitsett Street and Balboa Boulevard. Twelve intersections are now under some traffic control restrictions, Dames said. The contractors working on the busway have construction workers working on both the east and the west side, “sort of moving together,” Dames said. After demolition and clearing, he explained, a fiber optic communication system is installed along the route. This “conduit phase” of the project is 90 percent finished, Dames said. After that, other construction phases, including laying of concrete, take place. “We’re 95 percent complete on the design,” Dames said. By the end of June, workers will start construction on some of the 13 stations along the Orange Line route. The western terminus on Owensmouth Avenue between Erwin and Oxnard streets is already under construction the street will be closed for six months to accommodate the work. With upcoming street closures, Dames recognized some businesses may be inconvenienced. “We require the contractor to maintain access to all businesses,” Dames said. “To the extent of reducing a six-lane street to four lanes, inevitably that creates traffic congestion and because of that, it creates problems for business. We recognize that and try to maintain some type of point of access for businesses.” In the same strip mall as Warner Jr. Market, Jim Baker, owner of Computer Repair Center, has persevered through construction. He said it has started in January and has affected his business only slightly. “I don’t directly suffer as much as other people here,” Baker said. “My customers don’t have a lot of choice. They make their way through.”

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