Impact of Rt. 35 Construction Worries Businesses [AUDIO]
With the winter wreaking havoc with the timeline of the Route 35 construction project, a coalition of businesses in Lavallette is growing more concerned it could mean another handicapped summer for them.
Members of the Lavallette Business Association met Thursday morning to discuss the current and potential future impacts of the construction project.
Aggie Roberts, owner of Music Man Ice Cream Shop and member of the LBA, led the meeting, explaining merchants need to band together to address their concerns to the Department of Transportation.
"Allow us to have a summer to get us to 2015, because it's not just about the summer but getting us through the winter," Roberts said to an audience of 30 local business owners.
If construction projects were to continue into the summer, which DOT officials have not yet made official, businesses worry it could severely impede crucial summer business. Numerous merchants expressed concern that even if the road itself were to remain open, construction would tie up shoulders and parking spots, make it difficult for emergency vehicles to move and create a general danger for pedestrians who would be walking in and around dug up concrete and asphalt.
However, almost all complained about being kept in the dark about the timeline of the project. Realtor Sandra Lozzaro said renters were already canceling their stays during the summer after seeing the glut of heavy equipment, dug-up road and construction crews.
Lozzaro said, rather than risk the chance of being stuck with the hassle of construction during their vacation, renters were opting for Long Beach Island, Cape May, and destinations out of state. The Lavallette realtor remains frustrated.
"We can't even give clients concrete answers as to what our timeline is because we don't know. I don't want to lose me credibility by saying 'yes, we're going to be up and running for Memorial Day,'" Lozzaro said.
Other businesses worried the construction would completely disrupt their daily operation. Numerous owners said deliveries would be incredibly difficult since large trucks would have to maneuver around construction and try to find a place to unload product.
However the biggest fear from many was that of another lackluster summer. Marty Morales, owner of Big Ed's Produce, said most of the businesses spent their own money to get themselves open by Memorial Day last summer.
"Last year was a disappointing season; business was off like 50 percent. We just can't keep doing it year after year and survive," Morales said.
Roberts hopes once all of the letters are sent to the DOT, a meeting can be arranged and something can be worked out. He understands the construction needs to happen, but hopes the DOT can provide them with a timeline as well as work with them through the process.
"Don't close off an area on a Friday afternoon to prepare for a Monday work schedule," Roberts said. "That kills our weekend."