Construction project still affecting Merrillville businesses

2013-05-18T20:18:00Z 2013-05-19T00:29:11Z Construction project still affecting Merrillville businessesChas Reilly chas.reilly@nwi.com, (219) 662-5324 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | A common question heard at Fast Eddie's Merrillville salon is "when's it going to be done?"

The question has nothing to do with a haircut. Instead, customers want to know when the frontage road project along U.S. 30 will be finished, said Kelly Davis, of Fast Eddie's.

The answer to the question remains somewhat unclear.

For the second consecutive year, utility line relocation has delayed the project, said Ramon Del Real, project supervisor at the Butler, Fairman & Seufert engineering company. Although a completion date isn't set, Del Real said it's possible the frontage road work will be finished in early July.

Some stores within the project area, which is between Taft Street and Merrillville Road, have reported their business has dropped by as much as 35 percent because of access issues caused by the frontage road project. They hope construction will come to close sooner.

Construction has reduced several frontage roads on the north and south sides of U.S. 30 to one lane. The reductions have confused customers, several of whom have been unsure about how to enter some businesses.

Davis said it took one customer about 20 minutes on Wednesday to determine the correct way to enter the salon at 2012 W. 81st Ave.

She projected business has dropped 20 to 25 percent because of the access issues.

"We're suffering big time," said Perry Schultz, manager at the Red Wing Shoe Store, which is in the same complex as Fast Eddie's.

He said there are some "good days" at the store. Overall, he thinks there has been a 30 to 35 percent reduction in business.

"When you lose that, they go someplace else and they don't come back," Schultz said.

The construction has caused other issues, such as drivers bottoming-out when traveling on the gravel access area to the complex in which Red Wing shoes and Fast Eddie's are, Schultz said.

The frontage road outside of Aladdin Oil Change Oasis also is reduced to one lane.

Terry Chavez, manager of the business on the south side of U.S. 30 near Grant Street, said trucks involved with the project have occasionally parked along the frontage road. Some customers indicated they have avoided the business on the days in which trucks and equipment are out there.

Chavez said the lane reduction and construction project has "hurt us," but he didn't have figures regarding the amount of business lost.

Keith Krajewski, owner of Madsens Gold Rush, said regulars continue visiting his business on the north side of U.S. 30, but the amount of random walk-ins has dropped by about 30 percent.

The frontage road work was initially scheduled for completion last year, but delays relocating utility lines pushed it into this year.

About a month ago, it was determined more utility lines had to be relocated, Del Real said. The frontage road construction has stalled since the relocation work started, he said.

Before the latest utility lines had to be relocated, it was estimated the project could have been finished by June 15.

Construction is expected to resume this week, and additional crews will be sent out to make the work move faster, Del Real said.

An exact completion date hasn't been set, but a revised construction schedule should be developed this week, he said.

When the project is finished, frontage roads on the south side of U.S. 30 will be connected from McKinley Street to the traffic signal in front of Meijer.

Frontage roads on the north side of U.S. 30 will be improved, but those roads won't be extended.

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