The traffic jams and detours caused by the construction project taking place on Route 112 are causing big headaches for drivers and shopkeepers alike. Many complain that the project has negatively impacted sales but in the long run it may end up being better for business some say.
If you've driven on Route 112 in the past 13 months, you probably noticed the construction taking place on either side of the road. Heavy machines from street pavers to bulldozers are commonplace along Route 112 as county workers try to complete the . The project aims to modernize the 79-year-old roadway in various ways. This includes new continuous bike lanes, continuous sidewalks, improved drainage and new bus stops.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Stanley Gee said the project would not only add much needed jobs but it will improve quality of life once it's completed as well.
Begun in August of 2009 the project is not scheduled to be completed until spring 2011. Officials tout benefits of the construction like new jobs for those who are working on it. The New York State Route 112 Reconstruction Project is being funded by President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides Federal funding to improve infrastructure. It is one of only two projects in Suffolk County using money from President Obama's economic stimulus plan.
Despite all of those benefits many local Port Jefferson businesses located along Route 112 are in fact suffering. The construction has closed several lanes, made navigating portions of the road confusing, guided only by construction cones, creating frequent traffic jams and forced some of those who would normally travel on Route 112 to seek alternate routes.
Dave Kunzler, owner of on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, has seen the negative impact of the roadwork first hand.
"People are more concerned with trying to stay on the road and drive safely and are not noticing that we are even here," said. Kunzler. "And we've been here for 44 years."
The concerns don't end there.
As owner of also located on Route 112 Robert Borneman has seen the difficulties first hand.
"Our customers tell us they are avoiding the area whenever possible," he said.
However, what people may not know are the problems that go beyond obvious traffic difficulties.
Since the project includes widening the roadway additional land was needed, much of which was owned by the various businesses along the roadway. To get around this, the government used eminent domain to obtain the land. Eminent domain is used to purchase land at fair market value from owners without requiring their consent.
In addition to owning the Diamond Jewelers building, Borneman also owns the property.
"The State of New York has compensated owners of land they took to widen the roadway under eminent domain laws," said Borneman. "But they do not and will not acknowledge the impact of this project on the tenants and businesses who are also directly impacted by the roadwork."
He also says the roadwork has had a direct impact on business.
"Sales are definitely down," he said. "I realize some of this is directly attributable to the difficult economy however our other stores are not struggling as much to meet last year's figures."
Despite all of the difficulties that are being encountered during the construction by other businesses, some recognize the importance of the project. Once complete, the roadway will not only feature additional lanes, but will also be significantly wider, which should help make traffic flow better.
Scott Marchese, owner of on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, thinks the project of the project in somewhat bittersweet terms.
"It has impacted our business and has even helped put a few [car] dealers along 112 out of business," Marchese said. "But it should be done in about a year and the improvements made to the road should help in the long run."
Bove Industries is the company is employed to complete this project. Although Dave Kunzler has his complaints regarding the construction, he also sees an upside.
"I feel Bove Industries is doing the project with great care and expertise," he said.
The completion date of the project may also be in danger. At the groundbreaking, NYDOT Commissioner Stanlee Gee said the project would be completed by spring 2011. Borneman said that New York State told him the project would take 40 months to complete after obtaining a portion of his land and that was after the August 2009 groundbreaking where Gee made his announcement.