Boulevard project seen affecting businesses

A major highway drainage project is worrying a restaurant owner who says it’s compromising his entrance, but State Highway Administration officials insist they are accommodating him.

In fact, said Ryan White, assistant district engineer for the SHA in Salisbury, the work there has slowed in order to help Joe Bellia, manager of Vinny’s La Roma Restaurant at 934 South Salisbury Boulevard.

A flagger was hired to direct traffic into and out of his establishment, White said.

But Bellia said drivers don’t want to turn through the cones and road work and business is down.

“It’s killing me,” Bellia he said.

“I talked to Ryan White and he said he has to do what the state tells him to do. He said he is trying to work with people but they have to understand the workers ran into this and they ran into that but it’s been a lose-lose for us,” he said.

Usually, he closes around 11 p.m. on weekends, but hasn’t had enough customers to stay open past 9.

The annual bike ride Seagull Century is Sept. 27. Bellia is concerned  the traditionally busy time, when bikers load on carbohydrates, like pasta and pizza, will drag this year.

“And where are they going to ride? Seagull Century is the biggest weekend of the whole year for me. I understand work has to be done. But seven weeks in front of my business? Bellia said.

“All the sidewalks are gone and there are car parts all over. People are losing mufflers and tail pipes. There is no end in sight because they still have to do the other side.

“They dig a hole at night and put loose asphalt on it, then dig it again,” Bellia said.

Charlie Gischlar, public information officer for the SHA, explained day work on the $6.2 million project is “only taking place when concrete is being used.”

“The local approved concrete plant is under a noise ordinance and can only supply concrete during the day. SHA has allowed the contractor to pour concrete first thing in the morning, around 7 a.m., and they must be off the road by 2 p.m. All other work is being completed between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” he said.

“The only other exception to this point is when the contractor reaches an obstacle that they cannot open the lane back up for a longer period. SHA has allowed the contractor one time to work from 7 p.m. Thursday evening straight through until 6 Monday morning,” Gischlar said.

The project will repair pipes and drainage to eliminate flooding on South Salisbury Boulevard, he added.

“There are old pipes underground used to carry water under the road to get it to drain. Those pipes were made out of terra cotta. We are replacing all those pipes with concrete. We are increasing the size of the pipes and putting eight times the number of inlets, so when it rains, it gets off the roadway,” he said.

He said workers have to maneuver around utilities, and it takes time, but that 40 percent of the job is finished.

“We’re doing everything we can to help Joe out,” White said, adding anybody with concerns can call him at 410-677-4000.

Agreeing, Gischlar said, “We work very carefully with the business owners. Hopefully the work there in front of his restaurant is almost done. They are having to go down as much as 14 feet to get the angle right and drain the water.”

Bellia said that last Friday, workers were on the job around 6 p.m., dinner hour at Vinny’s, and near Dunkin Donuts around 6 a.m. Saturday, when breakfast business is heavy.

White said other area businesses are inconvenienced, too, and not pleased, but understand the necessity of the project. He said Dunkin Donuts employees have taken road workers coffee and complimentary doughnuts.

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