Morrisville businesses are feeling the effects of new traffic patterns caused by the rebuilding of part of Lower Main Street.
“Our business is definitely down,” said Marisa Menendez, co-owner of Pizza on Main, which sits just a few hundred feet from the start of the project, and has a bird’s-eye view of traffic delays or detours.
“People just aren’t coming through here, and they’re discouraged when they do get here.” Menendez said.
The work, known locally as the “A Street to B Street project,” extends down Lower Main from the intersection with A Street, near the Morristown Police Department, past the intersection with Randolph Road to the B Street intersection.
The entire road is being shifted slightly as part of the work; the intersection with Randolph Road will be realigned and a new sidewalk will be built.
The Morristown highway crew began tearing up the pavement and rebuilding the roadbed in mid-May. Blow & Cote Inc., the contractor hired for the rest of the work, took over the project last week and should complete it before foliage season, said Dan Lindley, town administrator.
Drivers headed out of the village have regularly been detoured onto A and B streets since mid-May, while those headed downtown were either allowed to continue up Lower Main or detoured around the area completely.
That uncertainty, and occasional lengthy traffic delays, have taken a bite out of business for Menendez and other shop owners on Lower Main Street.
“Sales have definitely gone down,” said Danielle Dolisie, the manager at Black Cap Coffee & Beer. Black Cap’s Morrisville location opened in June of last year, and business is much slower this summer than it was a year ago. Dolisie said she’s had to cut back on staff during the morning hours.
“There are less commuters. We open at 6:30 each morning, and we normally see customers by 7,” Dolisie said. “Now we aren’t seeing them till 9 or so.”
Black Cap was also a popular destination for bike tours in its first summer, but those groups seem to be avoiding downtown Morrisville so far this year.
Menendez did acknowledge that business finally started to pick up in late June, but she thinks that was because “summer has finally hit.”
“We’re definitely down from last year,” she said, although things would be worse if her business didn’t have a loyal customer base.
“We’re lucky we have a great community. Some customers are telling us ‘We’re coming no matter what, at any cost,’” she laughed.
She thinks the project seems to have been dragging on a bit, and would have liked to see more night work, or some other measure to cut back the impact on businesses.
Reverberations of the project are also being felt on the village’s far side, too. Jennifer MacDonough, manager at Stowe Road Market right next to the Route 100 bypass, has noticed a downtick in people stopping as they head out of town toward Stowe and other points south.
“A lot of our customers are from this side of the village anyway, but we have lost some of our morning commuters,” MacDonough said.
Drivers were still stopping in during the first few weeks of the work, but once it became clear the project was long-term, they found alternate routes and simply avoid the area.
“They get used to the traffic, and just go around to get on the bypass,” she said.
Rock Art Brewery sits across Laporte Road from Stowe Road Market, and while summer started slow, co-owner Renee Nadeau doesn’t blame the construction.
“We haven’t heard any complaints,” she said.
Nadeau thinks commuters do tend to avoid the area, but people with a specific destination in mind usually find a way to get where they are going. For instance, she regularly finds a way around the work to pick up sandwiches from Thompson’s Flour Shop, another Lower Main Street business.
“They’re worth it,” Nadeau said.
Back in the village, Riverbend Market owner Tim Monaghan says his business has actually improved since the work began. Riverbend Market sits at the start of Bridge Street, the other main route to the bypass, and while business usually perks up every summer, he believes he’s picked up extra customers who are avoiding Lower Main Street.
“Morning commuters, there are definitely more people going this way to hit Route 100,” Monaghan said.
It hasn’t all been roses since mid-May, though; more drivers on Bridge Street means more traffic congestion, and sometimes people don’t want to hop out of line to gas up or grab a coffee if it means fighting to get back out in traffic.
Safety agencies cope well
The construction work has had little effect on Morrisville’s emergency personnel and first responders.
“We haven’t really haven’t been impacted by that particular project,” said Leah Hollenberger, vice president of marketing, development and community relations at Copley Hospital.
“So far, it hasn’t really affected us,” agreed Nathan Pickard, chief of Morristown Emergency Medical Services. “If we’re going out on a call, there are plenty of back roads to get out. And, if we need to head down that way, they’ve stopped and let us through. It hasn’t hindered us at all.”
“We’re adapting as we go,” said Morristown Police Chief Richard Keith, whose station sits at the upper end of the construction zone. “Other than a little dust, it hasn’t really been an issue. These things have to happen; you just have to bear it.”
Menendez agrees with Keith on that score. Morrisville will gain a new gateway to its downtown and “in the end, it will all be worth it.
“Where you come into a town, that’s so important,” she said. “It’s just a little painful getting there.”