Which way? Construction confusion in New Hope

December 18, 2008 3:40:12 PM PST
Nobody disputes the fact that it's important to repair structurally deficient bridges. We know what can happen when bridges are allowed to decay, but the shutdown of a bridge in New Hope is causing a different kind of problem, an economic problem. When you drive over the bridge from Lambertville to New Hope, you are faced with a wall of bright orange signs and barrels telling you the street is blocked and you must take a detour.

"With everything saying wrong way and this way and that way, yes, I'd be confused," Julie Hoffman from Branchville, New Jersey said.

The detour is necessary because just beyond it, PennDOT is repairing what's known as the Canal Bridge, a 67-year-old steel beam span that's been classified as structurally deficient. Right now, just one lane of traffic on Bridge Street is getting by.

PennDOT says it may be a bad time in a bad economy, but the repairs couldn't wait.

Shop owners say it's turned the Christmas shopping season into a bust.

"This has decimated business. I'm down 70-percent at this point," Howard Kurs said.

Howard Kurs of Lazer Illusions says the chain link construction fence in front of his store and others is scaring customers away.

As for the detour, it'll take two and a half miles out of your way if you don't know your way around local streets. Merchants are afraid some potential customers may get confused and just keep going.

"You don't know where to go, you don't know where to turn," Elyse Diamond of Hamilton Township said.

The owner of a shop called Surrender says she's almost ready to, after losing more than half her business.

"It really looks like a warzone. We're all open. We're all here for the tourists and the locals. It's just killing us," Loretta Johnson said.

The street is not expected to reopen until next June. Shop owners wonder if they can last that long.

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