The merchants on Howard Street will be able to breathe a sigh of relief come Sunday, when Mass Transit Administration buses begin rolling down that corridor again after more than a year of being diverted to other streets.
The diversion, which took buses along Eutaw and Cathedral streets, was made because of construction of the light-rail system along Howard Street that began in June 1990.
That portion of the light-rail system is complete, and MTA officials announced yesterday that bus service will be restored to Howard Street two months ahead of schedule.
"We're delighted with the return of the buses," said Milt Rosenbaum, who owns Hosiery World on Saratoga Street, just a half-block from Howard.
Rosenbaum, who is also president of the Market Center Association, which represents approximately 450 downtown merchants, said his business has been affected by the lack of bus traffic but not as badly as other merchants.
Many Howard Street retailers were forced to close while the buses were diverted. Other businesses had to endure declines in sales in excess of 40 percent, Rosenbaum said.
"You will not last long with decreases of that magnitude," he said.
A weekend sidewalk sale is planned by Howard Street merchants to coincide with the return of buses.