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Kautz/Route 38 construction gives grief to local stores

GENEVA TOWNSHIP – American Science and Surplus owner Patrick Meyer has five words for the impact of the Kautz Road/Route 38 overpass project that has impacted his business.

“It has not been pretty,” Meyer said. “We’ve seen a significant drop in traffic – some weeks as high as 40 percent on average – when construction started. Sometimes it’s 25 percent a week. It’s pretty brutal. A lot has to do with the [construction] warnings than anything else. … Customers are complaining on a regular basis.”

The project began Nov. 4, and was originally scheduled for completion Aug. 31, 2014.

But a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said completion was extended to March 6, 2015, because of ComEd utility relocation delays.

A spokesperson from ComEd did not respond to a request for comment.

The Kautz and Route 38 interchange will be on the overpass that separates the grade over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. 

The project’s federal share is $30.7 million; the state’s share is $7.6 million; DuPage County’s share is $25,000; and Geneva’s share is $237,000, according to the intergovernmental agreement.

Meyer said he relies on regular customers who are interested in the company’s science and education items, including tools, toys, books, novelties, office supplies and magnifiers, and many who buy for school science projects.

The company also sells online, but Meyer said he has 5,000 items in stock in the store, almost twice what is available online.

“It’s a very unique blend of merchandise,” Meyer said. “We are a destination store. Customers will travel to see us.”

Construction manager for the project, Michael Sienza, of Globetrotters Engineering Corp., blamed ComEd, the weather and trains for delays.

“I have to have utilities relocated before I set foot on the job,” Sienza said. “The first six months, we had more rain than any full year of the last 130 years. It’s hurting our embankment work. And we’ve had an ungodly amount of trains. … No way can we stop a train. All that work is at night when we get to it.”

He acknowledged the long construction schedule causes businesses to suffer.

“We couldn’t be happier if we hold to the schedule,” Sienza said. 

Other Geneva Township businesses on Route 38 have been impacted, but more by customers complaining about the construction than anything else.

“It’s affected business a little bit,” said Henry Stach, an employee of the Sherwin Williams at 33W365 Route 38. “But Route 64 and Route 56 are just as bad. Painters have to pick one bad road or another.”

John Cordogan of Cordogan’s Pianoland, 33W441 Route 38, said at 30,000 square feet, his is the largest piano store in Illinois, and remains a destination place despite the construction.

“I’m sure it’s impacted us,” Cordogan said.

“We still have our customers and give people directions to get in and out of here because of the construction. Everyone is waiting for this to be over.”

The company sells starter pianos through high-end pianos costing $30,000 to $80,000.

“Not a lot of people typically drive by and say, ‘I’m going to buy a piano.’ But some people drive by and want to look,” Cordogan said. “We have the largest piano store in Illinois, so customers drive from great distances to get here.”

Sometimes customers fly in to the nearby DuPage Airport – or O’Hare or Midway – and he sends a car service to pick them up and drop them off, he said.

“You can’t see a piano inventory like that if you live in Paradise Valley, Mont.,” Cordogan said. “They do not have one in their whole state.”

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