Mt. Airy construction pros and cons

May 6, 2008 3:22:47 PM PDT
A section of Germantown Avenue is getting a makeover courtesy of PennDOT, but the work is taking longer than expected. The lunch rush at the Trolley Car diner on Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy is slower than usual these days because of delayed construction outside the popular neighborhood eatery.

Despite signs announcing this and other businesses are open during the road rehab, merchants say congestion and detours have kept customers away.

"Trolley Car Diner last month, for example, was down 32 percent in sales. We have since January been forced to lay off 20 percent of our staff," Diner owner Ken Weinstein said.

PennDOT is rebuilding a 3,000 foot stretch of Germantown Avenue from just above Cresheim Valley Drive to just below Allens Lane. The $17 million project involves replacing underground utilities, old trolley tracks, and the street surface.

Local business owners welcome the upgrade, but worry delays during the year long project may be unbearable.

"There's an uncertainty and fear with this kind of major project and it's a big project?Fear if we can hold out, can we survive until this is done," Adrian Hickman of TLA Video said.

To start the project, Germantown Avenue was closed just below Cresheim Valley for 7 weeks in January. It remains closed 11 weeks later.

PennDOT blames century old under ground utilities below the street and the Cresheim Valley Bridge that were in worse shape than anticipated.

"If this was just a regular asphalt street with some utility work, that could happen during the night under traffic, but because of these types of tracks, these durations that are involved, and this specialty type of work, it's taking longer. It's not an everyday procedure," Lou Marrafino of PennDOT said.

PennDOT officials say the intersection of Germantown and Cresheim will open this Friday and that the portion of Germantown that's under construction now will open in mid May..

Business owners along the rest of the Germanton Avenue construction zone worry about the future.

"To date I've had to scale back some hours of some employees. I haven't laid anybody off yet, but I've seen what Ken had to do at the Trolley Car Diner. My concern is that I'll have to take the same measures," Paul Egonopoulos of Brewers Outlet said.

PennDOT said the intersection of Cresheim and Germantown should open on Friday and the part of the street that is now closed for construction should reopen in mid May.

Some business owners want the state to compensate them with some losses; they sent Governor Rendell e-mails, but have not received responses.