Bridge detour hurting bottom lines

Business owners in the village say they are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of a con

Business owners in the village say they are struggling to keep their doors open in the face of a continued construction detour prohibiting customers from driving north over the working part of the new state Route 10 bridge.

The state Department of Transportation is replacing the bridge that spans the Mohawk River between Canajoharie and Fort Plain and carries traffic north and south over Route 10.

The DOT in March restricted travel across one lane of the new bridge to southbound traffic only, forcing motorists seeking to travel north from Canajoharie to drive about four miles west to Fort Plain to cross the Route 80 bridge and then back about four more miles to Palatine Bridge.

Business owners on Thursday said before the detour they were already experiencing a slowdown they attribute to a weak economy. But now they are fearing for their livelihoods, they said.

The Roadway Inn motel on Route 5 does most of its business with motorists exiting the Thruway on the south side of the river in Canajoharie and customers aren’t making it to the motel, manager Doug Haven said.

“Last year at this time, we probably had 15 to 20 rooms [filled nightly]. Last night, we had one room [filled],” Haven said of the 30-room inn.

Haven said the motel survives through the business it does during summer tourism season, and losing customers until September when two-way traffic over the bridge is expected to resume, could shut it down.

“It’s devastating. We survive on the tourist season to get through the rest of the year. We’re not going to survive now,” Haven said.

An employee from the Rite Aid farther east on Route 5 said the drug store is losing money and sending staff home early due to the lack of traffic. He said he was not allowed to give his name because of corporate policy.

“Our business has suffered greatly,” he said.

The New China restaurant in the Dutchtown shopping plaza west of the bridge entrance was experiencing a slowdown before the detour and the operation is now losing between 30 and 40 percent of its business, said Wei Pung, whose parents own the restaurant.

The impact of the slowdown is translating into fewer hours for employees, business owners said.

The Pizza Hut in the Dutchtown Plaza typically has two to three people working days and five at night, assistant manager Jo-Lin Martinez said.

Now, there’s one person during the daytime and three at night, Martinez said.

“Our business has definitely been a lot slower,” Martinez said.

The Dutchtown Ace Hardware store opened last summer so co-owner John Macci said he did not have historical data with which to compare the current situation. Macci said the store is still getting customers but “not with the frequency” as in prior months.

“I can tell you for sure that it’s not helping,” Macci said about the detour.

The Price Chopper supermarket in the plaza is adjusting its product delivery but the roadwork has not affected staffing there, Golub Corp. spokeswoman Mona Golub said.

DOT spokeswoman Alice Romanych on Wednesday said engineers explored numerous options before deciding on the current detour.

Romanych said engineers do not want to install a traffic light that would allow intermittent traffic to flow in both directions due to a fear that traffic will back up to the state Thruway exit in Canajoharie.

Romanych said the DOT has received complaints from businesses.

After those complaints, Romanych said officials decided to make some signs that will point people on the south side of the bridge to businesses on the north side.

Those signs will be installed as soon as possible, Romanych said.

“We have been re-evaluating and at this point, we do not consider it feasible to change it,” Romanych said.

Palatine Bridge Mayor James Post said Wednesday he feels for the businesses that are reeling from the impact of the work, but said he doesn’t believe there’s anything he can do about it.

Post said if he were in charge of those businesses, he would take steps to try to boost the customer base, such as through “a little more creative advertising.”

Post said the DOT informed him that plans for the work started back in 1994 and were well publicized, so he doesn’t believe there’s any chance there will be a change in the way the bridge work is completed.

“I do feel for these people,” Post said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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