Businesses on State Route 59 say road work is starting to pay off

Chris Gates

Businesses along State Route 59 continue to deal with the problems caused by construction but are starting to notice the benefits it will provide.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is widening State Route 59 from Powdermill Road to Menough Road near the Ravenna Moose Club and Myers Appliances.

Paula Putnam, ODOT public information officer, said the project is estimated to cost $6.2 million and will widen pavement to allow for a center turn lane.

Lynn Totten has her own farmer’s market just down the road from Wal-Mart’s entrance and said the summer was trying for her at times.

“At times it has hurt me, I know, but that’s not what it’s all about,” she said. “My loyal customers have been just that. They get here through the construction.”

Totten noted that the construction has actually added new customers to her business that she never had before. The workers, she said, started to frequent her shop as the summer and construction progressed.

“I’ve never seen them as a problem,” Totten said. “They buy things from me. On their lunch break they always come. I’ve enjoyed having them around.”

Just up the road from Totten, Portage County AAA has seen the same progression with the roadwork.

“At the beginning it was really bad,” Branch Manager Alison O’Neil said. “They had it backed up. That hurt. But it has improved greatly since then.

“In the long run it’s going to be a nice change.”

Mid-summer was the worst time of the year for her AAA location. O’Neil said customers tried to avoid the traffic caused by construction quite often.

“We’ve had an increase in phone services,” O’Neil said. “They’ll ask us, ‘What’s the construction like out there?’ They kind of want to know ahead of time if there’s a long wait.”

O’Neil pointed to the economy as a contributing factor to slow business as well. She said for a travel-based company like AAA, times have been tough because travel is not a priority for consumers anymore.

Though the construction is becoming more manageable for many, some businesses are still feeling heavy negative impacts.

The Birdie Shack, located right across the street from Wal-Mart’s entrance on State Route 59, had an unusually slow summer on the business side of things and said that nothing has improved.

“It’s just one big, horrible nightmare,” co-owner Dee Polichena said. “It’s been a nightmare with all the dust and the dirt, the traffic problems. It has made people stay away from this area.”

Trucks and mounds of building materials lay yards away from the Birdie Shack’s parking lot, which co-owner Len Polichena said was never the agreement.

“We’ve had our driveway blocked a number of times,” he said. “They asked me for permission, which I gave them, but it was for a trailer and a small pile out there.”

Currently several cars, piles of dirt and machinery reside next to the Birdie Shack.

Construction is expected to continue through the year and in-to next summer. ODOT has set the date of completion for July 2009.

Contact public affairs reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].