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Maugans Avenue residents, business owners talk about construction

June 20, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

As he looked out his office window over Maugans Avenue, Andrew J. Clemmer weighed the pros and cons of the construction happening below.

The nearly constant presence of bulldozers, dust and concrete barriers is annoying, said Clemmer, an insurance agent with Cumberland Valley Insurance.

But the end result - better traffic flow on the neighborhood's major road - will be worth the pains of construction, Clemmer said.

"It definitely will be an asset in the years to come," Clemmer said. "Still, I tell (construction workers) that I don't want to celebrate another birthday with them."

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As a project to widen Maugans Avenue nears the 15-month mark, merchants and residents along the road say they have mixed feelings about the work that has become a part of their daily lives.

The road is being widened from two to five lanes between U.S. 11 and Interstate 81. Turn lanes will be added and traffic signals installed at the interstate ramps.

Most shop owners and residents said they think the wider road is needed to accommodate traffic, which many people said can back up from lunchtime through the evening rush hour.

But delays caused by sinkholes, waterline relocations and other problems have extended the expected completion date - and irritations to merchants and residents - by three months.

Business frustrations

Shop owners in the Orchard Hills Shopping Center said the project has hurt business.

"We've had a huge decline since it started," said Ralph Hause, owner of Accent Imaging.

Hause and others said a sign showing drivers where to pull into the center is ineffective because people aren't familiar with the shopping center's name, which is on the county's sign, but not prominently displayed on the building.

"I've worked here for a year and had no idea it was called Orchard Hills," said Ragan Haupt, manager of Battery Warehouse. "If we don't know, how are my customers supposed to know?"

Hause said several of his customers have pulled through the Maugans Avenue Car Wash to get to his shop.

Robert J. Slocum, deputy director of capital projects for Washington County, said he understands the frustrations.

"Any time you're doing a construction project where you're in someone's front yard ..." he said. "It's gone about as good as can be expected."

The county had to acquire more than 40 land parcels for the project. That, along with the traffic volume, the length of the road (about a half-mile) and the need to coordinate with federal officials and private companies, have made it a difficult project.

"It's certainly one of the most complex, large-scale projects we've done," Slocum said.

One side of the road has been paved, and traffic could be rerouted to that side as early as next week so workers can pave the other half.

With the delays, the project's contractor, C. William Hetzer Inc., is projecting a finish date in October, Slocum said.

The cost of the project, originally contracted at $7.4 million, is expected to hit a 5 percent contingency allotment, which would bring the total close to $7.8 million.

That amount does not account for the rising cost of asphalt cement, which has risen more than 60 percent in the last year, Slocum said.

"We appreciate everyone bearing with us," Slocum said. "Toward the end of this year, it's going to pay off. It will be a much safer road to travel."

Resident concerns

Jacque Goodnow, who has lived on Maugans Avenue for 25 years, said she knows the expansion will improve traffic.

But in the meantime, the construction has kept her from parking in her driveway.

Goodnow said she is worried that driving over a drop-off of several inches between her driveway and the newly paved road section will ruin her tires.

"I'm parking on a side street right now," Goodnow said.

Angela Stanton, who lives across the street from Goodnow, said the work has caused her house to shake.

She also said she won't let her 9-year-old daughter, Jenna, anywhere near the road.

"It's too dangerous," Stanton said.

Tracy Dinezza said her house also has been shaken by the work, and she installed triple-pane glass in her windows to keep out the construction noise.

Dinezza is optimistic, however, that the inconveniences of construction will be worth it when the project is finished.

"A lot of people say it will make things worse," Dinezza said. "But you have a lot of traffic that needs to be accommodated."

Others wonder if more lanes simply will bring more traffic.

"I think people who drive 20 or 30 miles per hour now will drive 50 or 60 miles per hour when it's over," Hause said.

Still others say there is no point now in wondering how the project will turn out.

"I couldn't care less about the five lanes or how it's going to change things," Goodnow said. "I'm just excited about having it over with so I can get back into my driveway."

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