Traffic congestion ties up Bowen Road business

A $10.4 million project to widen Bowen Road and expand the Quarterway Bridge is on schedule to meet its completion date in the fall of 2012.

Jack Chaston

Jack Chaston

A $10.4-million project to widen Bowen Road and expand the Quarterway Bridge is on schedule to meet its completion date in the fall of 2012.

But that is little consolation to Gail Avender, co-owner of the Vancouver Island Thrift Store, who saw business drop 40 per cent since the start of construction in February.

Sales are down, staff hours continue to be cutback and Avender said she hasn’t got a clue what she is going to do.

Work re-locating B.C. Hydro poles from one side of Bowen Road to  the other has caused traffic congestion, often preventing customers from using business driveways.

Those who do get in are then at the mercy of drivers to let them exit.

“Rather than leave room for someone to get in and out, it’s completely blocked,” said Avender. “We’ve seen people wait for 10 or 15 minutes before someone will even let them out. It’s crazy.”

Jan Mongard, project manager, said the city provided signage asking drivers not to block driveways.

“Occasionally we do support it with a flag person at peak times, but most of the time the signage is there to not block the driveways,” he said. “We expect the travelling public to respect the businesses and give them access in and out.”

Avender said the signage is basically ignored by drivers.

“We had to go to the bank one Friday and couldn’t get out,” she said. “You would think drivers would be a little bit more respectful to let people in and out. I don’t get how they have tunnel vision.”

Traffic congestion will likely be a daily occurrence for most of July as Hydro continues the work.

“But behind Hydro typically you have Telus and Shaw working on the communication cables. It appears this will continue for a number of weeks,” Mongard said.

That could spell disaster for the thrift store, though Avender said their landlord is willing to work with them.

“It’s not our fault, but I fear the day we can’t make the rent,” she said. “We pay almost $6,000 a month in rent and he cut June’s in half for us. If we’re not here, he’s not getting anything.”

The city took out newspaper advertising for the businesses along the construction corridor and Dave Seymour, owner of Tim’s Automotive Repair and Mobile, said he has received a few calls from it.

“I think we need to get together and ask for some more,” he said.

Seymour has added used car sales to his business and developed a website providing customers with  directions to get through the construction area.

“One has to adapt or they’re not going to be here,” he said. “I put my life savings into Tim’s Automotive Repair and I certainly want to be here when the construction is done.”

Sales aren’t what they were from the previous year, but Seymour said he’s not sure that is the fault of construction or the economy.

“Am I as concerned as I was when construction started? No. I’ve had a few complaints about the traffic, but I also know at some point this is going to come to an end,” he said.

Mongard said the immediate goal is to wrap up utility work west of Pryde Avenue toward Caspers Way.

“In a couple of weeks we will be removing curbs and sidewalks, slightly realign Bowen Road to the north and then installing new curbs, gutters traffic islands and sidewalks near 7-Eleven,” he said.

Work also continues on the first of two bridges that will eventually become one over the Millstone River.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada regulations dictate work has to be done on the north bridge by Sept. 15 and the goal is to open the north roadway to traffic by the end of October.