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As Washington Blvd expansion drags on: Sales nosedive

Published:Sunday | January 23, 2011 | 12:00 AM
New Boulevard Motors closed temporarily. - Gladstone Taylor / Photographer
Sign posted on premises along Washington Boulevard.
Construction being done on Dunrobin Avenue, St Andrew.

Mel Cooke, Sunday Gleaner Writer

As construction work on the widening of the eastern end of the Washington Boulevard/Dunrobin Avenue in St Andrew continues, some business operators are complaining about a dip in earnings as customers find it difficult to negotiate the many blocked-off side roads and entrances to their premises.

The Government of Jamaica/ National Works Agency project being undertaken by Surrey Paving and Aggregate, involves the widening of the roadway from two to six lanes to improve traffic flow; reconstruction of the existing pavement; construction of boun-dary walls along the new road alignment; putting in sidewalks, curbs, drains, box culverts and retaining walls; and the building of three major bridges.

A visit to the area last week showed that east of the Molynes Road/Washington Boulevard inter-section, a smooth swathe of white marl has been created on the left side of the road. However, it is far from a smooth ride for business persons in that area, who are now faced with the temporary closure of direct access to Washington Boulevard.

One business operator told The Sunday Gleaner that initially, there was pedestrian access to the businesses along Washington Boulevard and over time, indivi-dual businesses created vehicular access. However, he says with plans for a continuous curb wall, "we have no official Washington Boulevard access".

He complains, too, that while he and others have requested official access to Washington Boulevard, it has been denied, while a popular and much larger business further east on Washington Boulevard was granted an entrance before the roadwork began.

His options have closed in. "Of course it's going to affect me. I am going to have to close down or to relocate." A suggestion to create a slip road which would permit access to the business places going one-way east has not been taken up and he complains, "these people don't listen to anybody. Even before the day when them start rip it up, one of the engineers from National Works Agency show me a man me mus' talk to. But him say it cast in concrete, them nah take no talk".

He said sales took a nosedive "when them start ripping up my side of the road", and they have not recovered. Now, he says, "me jus' a take it day by day and see wha happen".

Using Renfield Drive is not an option as he says the community "is mostly residential and I don't want to become a bother to my neighbours. I have been living in peace with my neighbours and I don't want to have anything with them".

Already relocated

The operators of Ken's Auto, which was also in the area, have not taken a wait-and-see attitude, pulling up stakes seven months ago and relocating their Suzuki-focused motor vehicle repair service to nearby Seaward Drive. Second-generation operator of Ken's, Jessie Meikle, said the roadwork is the major reason for the relocation.

"Due to the heavy machinery that was passing by, you couldn't really leave any vehicles parked outside," Meikle said. "We work on cars and sell parts as well."

Ken's Auto had an entrance on Washington Boulevard for about five years, but Meikle says, "before the second construction it's like NWA was going around saying when it start you have to use the other entrance. We don't want to put people out of their way. A garage is going to have a lot of cars".

The move to Seaward Drive has resulted in a downturn in business, although Meikle says January is a slow period in the business. "When some people hear Seaward Drive they shy away. But it's the most reasonable place close by we could get," he said.

Ken's Auto could return to Washington Boulevard, but definitely not at the same place.

The disgruntled businessman who sought and was denied a slip road which would still allow vehicular access from Washington Boulevard to his and nearby business places, has no idea what he will do if his already faltering business grinds to a halt.

"Seek a job, I guess. Wha me fe do? Me haffi eat," he said.

"If a never my children me woulda jus' stop. Fe start over at this point in my life, it hard. Me haffi eat, that is the bottom line," he said despondently.