Flemington Circle construction a traffic nightmare for businesses
Some store owners on the Flemington circle, where Routes 202, 31 and 12 come together, are unhappy with an ongoing Department of Transportation improvement project because they claim it’s hurting their businesses.
DOT workers are constructing a through lane for Route 202 northbound so it can bypass the circle, and they’re also modifying some circle approaches to reduce travel speeds in order to make it safer for drivers.
“All of this commotion is making it very hard for customers to get to our business,” said Frank Schumacher, the assistant manager of the Flemington STS. “In the midst of the construction, it’s always during daytime hours, they have bulldozers and heavy equipment blocking the main entrance to the store.”
“While that’s happening the business has been down, probably a good 35 percent.”
Things are even worse a few doors down at the Dunkin Donuts.
“We lose a lot of business. It’s not like before,” said shift leader Ahmed Shaban. “We are open 24-7 but now we’re planning on closing in the night because we’re losing $10 to $15 thousand every week. We’re down close to 50 percent.”
He added this is not really surprising because “it’s so hard when you want to come inside the store, nobody takes a risk just for a cup of coffee.”
Next door, John Paulsen, the president of Flemington Yamaha, said he hasn’t lost business yet, and doesn’t expect to, because “if you’ve decided to come to buy a new motorcycle or a new ATV, you’re gonna get here.”
He did stress, however, “it’s a nuisance and it’s a discomfort and it’s uncomfortable for our customers and ourselves. We get a lot of, when people get down here, like 'Oh my God, how do we get in here? It was such a hassle!' It’s really frustrating, and of course we commiserate with them.”
Steve Schapiro, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the $11.1 million project has been in the works for more than a decade and “whenever the DOT undertakes this kind of project we always work closely with local businesses, residents, elected officials to design the project in a way that will minimize the impact to the community.”
He pointed out “we’ve actually created driveways through the work zones, so anyone wanting to get to these businesses still has access to the businesses, and we’ve also put up signs with the business names on them, to indicate that these businesses are open for business and these driveways are available.”
He also said the majority of businesses on the circle have alternative access to make it easier for customers to get to them, because there’s a shopping center behind them.
But Schumacher doesn’t buy it.
He said with all the work going on, “most people miss the turn in for STS. If you can’t get into the main entrance and you’re already confused about the construction going on with all the construction equipment around, you usually pass right by it.”
He also stressed “everybody here was wondering why they couldn’t so some of the work, at least half of it at night."
Schapiro indicated the majority of the work being done is during off-peak hours during the day, however, “some work is being done at night, things like paving is taking place at night.”
So why not do all of the work at night when the businesses are closed?
“Whenever we design a project we have to take a variety of factors into consideration,” said Schapiro. “Doing work at night is much more expensive than during the daytime, so it would have added a great amount to the cost of this project, and we do need to be good stewards of taxpayer money.”
Schapiro says the agency takes businesses into account in their planning.
"The project aims to improve the safety of the circle, while maintaining access to the businesses. We work hard at trying to find that right balance.”
The project is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2018.
Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com