Paving starts on Boulevard project
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Apr 4, 2014, 09:53
BLAKE BELDEN/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Workers pave a stretch of the western side of the Boulevard in Colonial Heights on Tuesday.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — For drivers who have been gripping their steering wheels tight with anxiety along the traffic-slammed Boulevard in southern Colonial Heights for the past year, unfortunately the light at the end of the tunnel is still maybe more than eight months away.
However, as paving wraps up on the western side of the Boulevard and if weather conditions continue to stay cooperative, Director of Public Works Chuck Henley remains optimistic that the $12 million Boulevard Modernization Project, from Lafayette Avenue to Westover Avenue, will be finished ahead of schedule.
Shoosmith Construction Inc. is contracted by the city to complete the project by January of 2015, however Henley hopes the end date will come as early as November of 2014 in part because there is less work to be done on the eastern side of the Boulevard than on the western side.
Once the western half of the Boulevard is completed, due within the next couple of weeks, traffic will be shifted over to the newly paved road so that the work on the eastern lanes of the road can be completed, at which point it is anticipated the contractor will be able to make up for lost time caused by inclement weather, Henley said.
The construction began on the corridor in April of 2013, after a series of regional developments such as recent growth in southern Chesterfield County, the building of a new courthouse on the corner of Dupuy Avenue and new plans to expand Virginia State University prompted city officials to work with transportation system partners on both regional and state levels on improving the transportation facilities to support these developments.
These improvements include a continuous center turning lane, turn lanes at Dupuy Avenue, lighting, landscaping, sidewalks and crosswalks, improved business access, bicycle lanes and storm drain system improvements.
Although Henley has optimistic views about the completion of the project, several local businesses along the western half of the corridor have become frustrated by the construction process, calling it slow and bothersome.
Both sides of the corridor are lined with convenience stores, automobile care centers and fast food establishments who have stood on the sidelines as entrances off the Boulevard have been blocked with cones and traffic has stood still in the single operating lane on each side of the road.
Jamie Bryant, the general manager of the Meineke car care center on Boulevard, said that the ongoing construction has been financially “devastating” for his business.
Over the three month period from June to August in 2013, Meineke was down more than $40,000 in consumer volume than they were over the same time frame in 2012 before construction started, Bryant said.
Including himself, there are now only two employees who work for Meineke because that is all that is needed to handle the decreased workload, Bryant said.
“I don’t think the city has any concern for the businesses,” Bryant said.
Sandra Borwick, with Master Transmissions and Auto Repair, said that it is hard to tell whether or not the construction has had any impact on their business, but that they are definitely ready for the project’s completion.
“It has been miserable and we’ll be glad when it’s finished,” Borwick said.
Henley said that it is not the city’s intention to hinder the businesses, and emphasized that they are crucial in building the city’s economic sustainability.
“The city is sensitive to the impact that it is causing to the businesses [along the Boulevard] but largely, the weather and the weather-caused delays are beyond anyone’s control, so we ask for their patience as we complete this,” Henley said.
Henley said that Shoosmith has done a good job of keeping entrances open to the businesses along the corridor.
“There has been at least one access open to each of the businesses in the corridor continuously since we started,” Henley said.
Bryant said that the entrance to Meineke off of Boulevard was blocked for six weeks, and that many customers were deterred from bringing their cars in through the back entrance.
After the construction is completed, Henley hopes the businesses will be satisfied with the overall improvements to the Boulevard in light of the inconveniences it may have created along the way.
“I have seen this before where a project like this can catalyze new investment and new vitality in businesses in a main street corridor ... but it’s just in getting there, there is a cost and there is some sacrifice, for lack of a better word, that everyone needs to make in order to get to that point,” Henley said.