09/21/05 — Drivers, businesses already weary of Ash Street paving

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Drivers, businesses already weary of Ash Street paving

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on September 21, 2005 1:57 PM

Click, click, rattle. Loose rocks roll around tire wells and kick off spinning tires as they hit windshields.

Gwen Jones knows all about the potential irritations that accompany traveling down Ash Street since the city's street paving project began Sept. 14.

Mrs. Jones was on her way downtown Monday when a sudden swerve from the car on her left sent her reeling. Loose gravel scraped against her Honda's undercarriage as she slammed on the brakes to avoid disaster.

"I was driving along and this white car swerved into my lane to miss a manhole," she said. "I pushed on the brakes, but almost crashed into the street corner."

Ash Street construction

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Construction workers dig up pavement on the corner of Ash and William during nighttime construction Tuesday.

Since the Ash Street paving project began last Thursday, drivers and business owners have had little to smile about, they say. Near accidents and slow business have plagued the area, which could face up to another three weeks of repair work.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m. each evening, the blocks on Ash Street between George and William streets are closed while crews mill the existing road and adjust manholes and water valves to prep for paving. Construction ends at 6:30 a.m. the following morning.

The preparation phase was expected to last about two weeks. Then, paving will begin.

Once crews finish prepping the section between George and William streets, the next closing on Ash will be between William and Herman streets.

For now, the work is right in front of Eckerd Drug Store manager Joleigh Barnes's front door.

She said despite the ongoing road work and lack of customers in the evening, her store is maintaining regular business hours.

"Business gets real slow about 7," Mrs. Barnes said. "Once the work starts out there, you can't even get to Eckerd unless you take Mulberry Street."

Other businesses are also facing challenges caused by the project.

Peggy Johnson works at Vanroekel Florist and Gift Shop. Although she isn't certain whether the store has lost business because of the construction, she said she feels inconvenienced.

"You can barely get in and out of the parking lot, and it's been a pain," Mrs. Johnson said.

Although drivers and businesses might not be happy, Kevin Bowen, an engineer with Apac-Atlantic Inc., said the project has gone according to plan.

Apac-Atlantic is handling the milling and paving work.

"My understanding is that the last nightwork was completed (Monday) night, and paving should begin sometime soon," he said.

While he would not say exactly when the paving would begin, Bowen said his intention is for crews to be in and out of Ash Street quickly. He also urged drivers to be patient and safe until the project is completed.

"We want folks to be happy with the work and safe at the same time," he said. "People should drive slowly and cautiously until we get it done."

Drivers like Mrs. Jones just want the whole project to be over as quickly as possible.

"I just hope no one gets hurt out there, and that all these problems are worth it," she said.