(Host) For the next two years, drivers going through Danville on Route 2 need to be ready for long delays. The cause of gridlock? A $6.6 million project designed to make the village more attractive.
Street lights will shine on new crosswalks, and the town green will get a new gazebo and plantings.
But some merchants worry that by the time Danville gets spruced up, they’ll be gone-put out of business by long traffic delays.
VPR’s Charlotte Albright reports.
(Albright) The carillon at the Congregational church is often drowned out by road construction trucks rumbling through town-a fitting symbol for the way life has changed in this quaint town over the past two weeks. After motorists are flagged to a halt for anywhere from ten to thirty minutes, they aren’t inclined to wander in for some wine and cheese at Diamond Hill, a gourmet shop across from the green.
And they aren’t streaming into Steve Cobb’s Danville Restaurant and Inn as much as they used to, either.
(Cobb) "Well, weekdays, it’s probably cut things right in half."
(Albright) Cobb says he hasn’t seen a drop in reservations for his Bed and Breakfast yet, but the noisiest road work is scheduled for next summer, and he worries that no one will want to vacation in a construction zone. It would be ironic, he says, if Danville beautifies itself but ends up with empty storefronts because of the prolonged road work.
(Cobb) "And of course it’s through our busiest time and I’ve always depended on summer business and fall business to carry me through the winter months. So it’s going to be pretty touchy, I think."
(Albright) Several other merchants have loudly lamented the loss of customers in the local newspaper. But the Route Two makeover does have its patient proponents.
(Frampton) "I’m Nancy Frampton and we’re from Bentley’s Bakery and Café in Danville, Vermont.
(Albright) As a machine kneads pastry dough in her kitchen, Frampton says there is no "good time" to do roadwork this disruptive, but she thinks it will pay off. Although her lunch crowd may be thinning, mornings are great. That’s because her bakery opens well before the flaggers show up on Route 2.
(Frampton) "So the construction does not start until nine so it doesn’t stop traffic so it gives people a chance to visit us in the morning on their way to work."
(Albright) When Frampton hears her customers moan about congestion, she tells them to think positively and stick it out. Town Administrator Merton Leonard hopes they can afford to take that advice.
(Leonard) "We just hope that they’ll be able to make it through to the other side ‘cause it would seem like it’s gonna be a very picturesque town when it’s over and they should get more business in the future but you just gotta get over it. . .that’s where we’re at this point."
(Albright) "This point" could last a long time. But things could be worse. Town Administrator Leonard says original plan called for the re-built Route Two to by-pass the town altogether.
For VPR News, I’m Charlotte Albright, in Danville.
What experience have you had driving along the construction area? And what should the solution be? Let us know in the comments section below.