Delays in bridge repair hurt businesses

December 14, 1990|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,Evening Sun Staff

A 100-year-old bridge on W. Cold Spring Lane damaged in a summer thunderstorm is causing traffic snarls for drivers and prompting complaints from merchants.

The small, two-lane bridge, which you hardly notice when you cross, is over Stoney Run Creek, a couple of blocks west of Charles Street. Rushing water from a severe thunderstorm damaged the old bridge in August, and since then the westbound lane has been closed.

Merchants along that stretch of W. Cold Spring say closing the lane has hurt business by making it more difficult for people coming from Charles Street to get to their stores and restaurants.

"It's a pain in the butt," said Debbie Alonso, the day manager of Alonso's, the restaurant and bar in the 400 block of W. Cold Spring Lane. She said lunch business is down about 15 to 20 percent.

Merchants are also angry because the city has not yet started to repair the bridge. Vanessa K. Collins, spokesperson for the city Department of Transportation, said work is scheduled to begin Dec. 17.

Even before the August thunderstorm, which damaged the bridge's foundation, the city had been planning to repair deteriorating portions of the bridge, Collins said. After the storm, repairing the bridge became a priority, she said.

But the city has procedures to follow -- requesting, receiving and awarding bids, meetings with the contractors, paperwork to complete -- and that takes time, she said.

"We moved as quickly as we could," she added.

But not quickly enough, said the merchants.

"Typical bureaucratic stuff," said John Kemp, vice president of Royal Farm Stores, who said business at the Royal Farm just west of the bridge is down about 25 percent.

"Four months is just absurd," added Paul Rossman, owner of the Guilford Citgo at Keswick Road and Cold Spring Lane, who said gas sales are down 35 percent, and business in his three service bays is down 15 percent.

"We rely on traffic flow for survival," he said. "This is really doing a number on us."

How much longer can he absorb the losses? "Not much longer, that's the problem," he said. "We'll probably be able to stay open, but we'll have to find some revenues from elsewhere."

The detours have not hurt all businesses in the area. Barry Solan, president of Video Americain, a video store next to the Guilford Citgo, said business has been good.

"People complain about it, but business is really terrific," he said. "It's a nuisance, that's for sure. But I'd say, 'Where there's a will, there's a way.' If people want to get somewhere bad enough, they'll find a way."

Collins said the bridge repairs will cost $1.4 million and take eight to 10 months. At least one lane of the bridge will remain open, she said.

Since August the westbound lane across the bridge has been closed, meaning that motorists cannot turn west onto Cold Spring Lane from Charles Street. "DO NOT ENTER," "DETOUR" and "ROAD CLOSED" signs, as well as orange barricades, block the westbound lane.

Orange detour signs lead motorists on a round-about trip around the bridge -- via Northern Parkway and Roland Avenue to the north, and W. 39th Street and W. University Parkway to the south.

Other businesses affected by the detours are the Hair Cuttery and Fiske Cafe and Caterers, said managers of the stores. Tom Visikis, director of operations for Fiske Cafe and Caterers, said lunch business is off about 15-20 percent, the same as Alonso's which is next door.

"We're kind of isolated, cut off in both directions," Visikis said.

The obstacle to the east, of course, is the damaged bridge over Stoney Run Creek. The impediment to the west is the Jones Falls Expressway, where workers continue to reconstruct the Cold Spring Lane overpass and ramps.

The $15.2 million reconstruction is 75 percent completed, said -- Collins, of the transportation department. The job is to be finished in June 1991, she said.

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