Roadwork in the Goulds leaves residents, companies in a rut
Some business owners on Main Road in the Goulds between Durdle Drive and Cleary Drive are raising concerns that the current $3.2-million construction work for street upgrading is affecting their bottom lines. Traffic has to detour around the construction work to Back Line to reach their destinations in the Goulds. Above, work crews install underground pipes in a trench. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
If something isn’t done to clear the way for customers on Main Road in the Goulds, one business owner fears construction will bury his restaurant.
“It’s a real pain and definitely killing business,” said Rod Forward, owner of the Big R Restaurant.
“I’ve got four tables here now and this is a good day,” he said, shaking his head during the peak lunch period.
The Big R is on the stretch of Main Road between Durdle Drive and Cleary Drive that is the site of a $3.2-million construction project by the City of St. John’s. Cost-shared with the provincial and federal governments, the upgrade involves curb, gutter and sidewalks as well as the installation of a new storm sewer system between Dirty Brook and Durdle Drive.
Announced in March by Coun. Wally Collins, the work began in April and is expected to wind up in September — throughout the busiest season for local businesses.
“It’s definitely our best time,” said Roxanne Cross, owner of Peter’s Pizza, as heavy equipment roared outside the front door.
“No doubt summer is one of the busiest times — more traffic, tourists coming through the area, but they aren’t going to go through this mess,” she said.
During an interview at the Big R Wednesday, Forward said this is the time of year when he starts to see his sales increase, but the business actually did better in the dead of winter than now.
“I don’t know what can be done. I can’t shut down. I know the road has to be done, but to what expense? Putting people out of business?” he said.
“That’s what’s going to happen to me if it continues. I pay taxes and if I’m not making any money I can’t pay taxes.”
Forward called the city to express his concerns and said he was going to write a letter to see if the city could help.
Collins, whose ward includes the Goulds, said he has spoken with some of the business owners, but, unfortunately for some, such as the Big R, there’s not a lot that can be done.
“Any time there’s road construction there’s going to be obstructions. You’ve got to tear it up, and if you’re catering to everyone, you won’t get anything done,” he said.
“The way it was in certain places, they have to take up the whole road. They had to bar it off and put in detours. We had a public meeting and told people about that. Is it better to get through it in two months or four? Some of the roads, if they open them up, the work can’t be done as fast,” Collins said.
He said he even asked the construction company to put on another crew, which it did, in an effort to speed up the job.
“They’re skipping right through it, but it’s a big project — lot of rock there. We’re fortunate we got so many streets to detour on,” Collins said.
One of the business owners the councillor has been dealing with is longtime resident Ron Pomeroy, owner of Pomeroy’s Convenience on the corner of Cleary Drive.
The store owner said one of his biggest concerns, besides having most of his customers cut off, are the ruts in the road a few feet from his parking lot.
“I’m happy with the fact it is going to be an improvement, but right now it’s disrupting business. I know it’s got to be done, but the ruts in the road — those who can get through don’t want to be driving over them,” said Pomeroy.
“All my customers are understanding and they have been faithful — they’d almost barge through the barricades to get here,” he said, bending down to pick up a hubcap from a car that hit one of the ruts too hard.
He said he asked Collins if the ruts will be filled in and was told it would be done last Friday.
Pomeroy, who has owned the store for 21 years, said he asked again Wednesday and was told it would be done the same day.
Collins said he was told by the company it would be done Wednesday.
Tuesday night, Bill Kelly, who lives in the house next to Pomeroy’s store, said he was on the deck having a smoke when a car hit the rut so hard that sparks flew out from underneath it.
It might have been the same one neighbour Sharon Raymond heard when she was doing a puzzle.
“It was scary,” she said of the loud bang. “If people don’t obey the signs, someone is going to have a bad accident. It’s a little inconvenient, but we can put up with it for all the good coming out of it.”
The fact that some people ignore road signs is exactly why Kelly took it upon himself Tuesday night to get a red post and place it near the first rut.
“I’m afraid someone is going to get killed,” he said. “Some idiot driving down there too fast. You don’t know what can happen.”
Forward said he understands the importance of the work, but when he spoke to inspectors who went around talking to business owners before the work started, he was told there would always be a lane open for traffic to get to the businesses.
“But you see how bad it is. I had a catering job to do and couldn’t drive on it because I was afraid my dishes would break, they were clanging so much,” he said.
Cross said she was told the same thing.
“One of the engineers came and spoke to me and said it wouldn’t interfere with businesses, but it’s not as easy as he made it sound,” she said, adding one positive thing is the construction crews shut down when students at St. Kevin’s School get out for lunch and at the end of the school day.
At this point, Forward doesn’t see anything promising for his restaurant’s immediate future.
“For the summer, I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” he said.