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Greencastle residents fed up with road construction

June 30, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- After nearly a year of fighting through construction traffic on Baltimore Street in Greencastle, area motorists are either taking the side streets or avoiding the town completely.

"I have not taken Baltimore Street in I don't know how long," Elayna Statler said. "If I didn't have to come (downtown) for work, I'd avoid it completely."

The Borough of Greencastle began tearing up Baltimore Street in October 2008, replacing gas and water main lines to prepare the heavily traveled state road for a new surface that will be put down later this year.

With weekday traffic funneled to one lane between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., the once-thriving downtown has been deserted by motorists too frustrated to fight the traffic.

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"I think this town is a disaster," said Travis Atherton.

Atherton, who lives on Washington Street, less than a block from the construction, said he has watched the project turn his home into a nightmare.

"As soon as my lease is up, I am gone," he said. "There is no parking left, they have closed off the street numerous times, it is just accident after accident waiting to happen, and between the horns blowing and the saws cutting the street, you can't even sleep anymore if you live in town."

David Pence, who owns the Pure and Simple Cafe with his wife, Cathy, said the construction has affected him spiritually, emotionally and financially.

"Our best months so far were February and March, when the first round of construction was done and the second had not yet started," he said. "This project is absolutely affecting my bottom line."

The yearlong project has turned business away from Greencastle, Pence said.

Some residents declined to comment on the construction, saying that how they felt was not fit for print.

"You want to know what the traffic and construction has done to this town? Look around. There is no one here," said Glen Gochenauer.

Gochenauer was one of seven people eating at the Antrim House Restaurant on Tuesday during what was once the "dinner rush."

Even the long lines of traffic have grown shorter, Gochenauer said.

The lines are only shorter because motorists have started bypassing Pa. 16 and using smaller side roads, Atherton said.

"They (motorists) have started using the one-way street back here," he said, gesturing to the alley to the south of Baltimore Street. "They will find any way around it (the construction), and I don't blame them."

Borough Manager Ken Womack asked residents, business owners and motorists to be patient with the project for a bit longer.

Womack has fielded numerous complaints and said the project is taking as long as it has to.

"I know it is frustrating when traffic is slow, but we are asking people to try to understand," he said. "When we repair roads, we try to look at whether the infrastructure needs repaired as well, so we are not digging up the new road."

Brad Miller, vice president of JVH Excavating of Leymone, Pa., said the infrastructure was in "terrible shape."

JVH Excavating has to complete the water-main replacement phase of the project by July 31, Womack said.

All that remains after the water mains are laid is for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to pave Pa. 16 through the borough and parts of Antrim Township.

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