Stranded Bank, Locksmith Trapped On Urban Island By Bridge Work

"Thank God I have loyal customers," Bill Neff said. "I wish I had that same kind of loyalty from my government."

Neff is the owner of Neff's Safe Lock & Security, Inc., 1039 N. Christian St. It's the block located between Liberty Street and McGovern Avenue, and it's in the thick of the Lititz Pike bridge reconstruction project.

When the project was unveiled, Neff attended the PennDOT informational briefing and was told that even though Christian Street would be inaccessible from McGovern Avenue, it would remain open at Liberty Street so customers could get to his business.

Until Monday.

That's when UGI Corp. closed the intersection of Liberty and Christian Streets to work on upgrading gas mains and laterals in the neighborhood.

Neff knew something was going to happen but didn't know the extent.

"A couple of months ago, UGI had their minions handing out letters in the neighborhood saying they were going to do something," Neff said. But details weren't included.

"What irks me is I tried to follow the protocols," Neff said. "I called the number on the flyer and got a recording and left a message. Nobody ever got back to me. We sent an email to the address on the flyer to ask for details but nobody answered that, either."

But on Monday, Christian Street was closed, and it will be for several weeks, making it difficult for customers to reach both Neff's Lock and a Fulton Bank branch on the west side of Christian Street.

His customers will have to travel north on Queen Street, turn into the Station Square shopping center, drive through its parking lot, then cross Christian Street to get to his business.

Yet, even that is dicey because UGI is digging trenches on Christian Street.

"Most of our business is automotive," Neff said, "but now they're blocking my garage."

A customer in his store Thursday said it took him an additional half-hour to get there because of the construction work and detours in the area.

A business owner in the neighborhood said the Fulton Bank branch also has been adversely affected by the Christian Street closing.

However, a spokesperson for Fulton Bank said the work on Christian Street has not had much effect on the bank, which was forced to move from its long-time location on McGovern Avenue to Station Square.

"There was some confusion caused by the additional changes" in traffic patterns, said spokeswoman Laura Wakeley. She added, though, "It doesn't seem to be affecting us because people have to get there."

Given all of the other bridge-related work in the area, Neff wondered, "Why did they [UGI] have to do all of this work now? I'm talking about common sense here."

In addition to closing Christian Street, UGI is closing portions of Liberty Street between Duke and Queen while digging trenches to replace gas mains.

That temporarily derails PennDOT's announced detour route to the Amtrak station on McGovern Avenue.

Because Liberty Street is a state road, UGI had to request permission from PennDOT to perform the work. PennDOT approved the application.

"Originally, we thought there would be sufficient room for cars to get around the work," PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said. "But the Lancaster police were concerned because of a potential safety issue, so they asked our contractor to close the lane entirely."

Calls to city police personnel seeking an explanation for the decision were not returned.

Additionally, UGI did not respond to a phone call asking why the road was closed or why the work had to take place amid the other construction activity in the neighborhood.

PennDOT's Penny said that when initial plans were developed for the project, "We thought Christian Street would be open and we expected it would be open throughout the course of the project.

"Part of this is dealing with a major project in an urban area where major utilities are located there and they must be dealt with," Penny said.

"We just ask for people's patience while this project is completed."

Editor's Note: To learn more about how this successful locksmithing company is moving into the electronics and video surveillance markets, read our May 2013 feature article, Electronic Locksmithing Survey,



Copyright 2013 - Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Pa.