News

Construction cuts Welland in half

Laura Barton

By Laura Barton, Tribune Staff

Lucas Spinosa, owner of The Black Sheep Lounge on Niagara Street, and Welland resident Sheri Waldie say that the construction that has closed down Niagara Street is a huge inconvenience and was poorly planned since it cuts off one side of the city from the other. Laura Barton/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network

Lucas Spinosa, owner of The Black Sheep Lounge on Niagara Street, and Welland resident Sheri Waldie say that the construction that has closed down Niagara Street is a huge inconvenience and was poorly planned since it cuts off one side of the city from the other. Laura Barton/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network

The construction taking place on Niagara Street in Welland since the beginning of August is a lot more involved than residents originally anticipated.

Although the construction was set to be done in increments with one lane open for traffic to use, since Monday there have been signs at either end of the zone which say “road closed” and “no through traffic.”

The problem residents are having is this is not a small stretch of road. The construction is taking place between Riverbank Street and Thorold Road. With the road closed, it’s pretty well severing the town in half.

“I understand it needed to be done, but does that much need to be closed at one time on Niagara Street?” said Sheri Waldie, who lives just off of Thorold Road and typically would use Niagara Street to get downtown.

For her, the major inconvenience is in the fact that she has to drive all the way around, heading over to Prince Charles Drive, to get to the downtown area. Since everyone else is doing that too, what normally is maybe an extra five minutes tacked on her commute ends up being 15 or 20 minutes.

She described one day where she was trying to get to a shop downtown and by the time she got there it was already closed because of how long she was caught in traffic.

She doesn’t even go to her church, St. Kevin’s Roman Catholic Church which is on Niagara, anymore because of how torn up the area is.

“I can’t be bothered. That’s what ends up happening, right?” she said.

For local business owners like Lucas Spinosa, people having that mentality cuts into his business hugely. He said he’s losing about $1,000 a week right now.

“We knew there was going to be construction, but we didn’t know it would be shutting down the entire road,” he said.

He said communication between the city, region and those affected by the roadwork has been a big issue. Since Niagara Street is both a municipal and a regional road, the two jurisdictions keep bouncing people looking for answers between each other.

Spinosa said he even knows the people to speak to and can’t get the answers he’s seeking.

Another area of miscommunication is there are no signs posted saying businesses are still open, but plenty warning people not to try to go through that area.

“They didn’t shut it off where the road ends,” he said of the signs posted about the road closure. “They shut it off so people won’t come down this road at all. So there’s three signs before you even get here saying don’t come down this way.”

The detour signage, Waldie said, is equally awful.

“It’s very poorly signed,” she said. “You only know (where to go) because you live here and you’re following the mass hordes of traffic.”

Spinosa’s other concern is the construction going longer than the planned six-month period he was told it would take. His fear is the snow falling before its done and stretching the project out for a year instead.

“That’s something that scares me because if this is a whole year, we will not last a year of this.”

He said traffic downtown is already cut in half.

“They just spent all this money on a TV screen for advertisement and now no one can even see that because they’re not going that way,” he said.

While the pair understand that there’s not much that can be done about the problem now, for next time there’s major construction being done they hope it’s better planned. And that residents and business owners are given better information about it beforehand.

lbarton@postmedia.com