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Road worries aired

Route 131 businesses concerned

Roadwork along Route 131 from around Big Bunny west to Route 20 is a project that is likely to take 18 months or more to complete. File photo. (click for larger version)
April 22, 2010
Anxiety levels among business owners along Route 131 went up a few notches this week as MassHighway began rebuilding the stretch from Route 20 to Globe Village, especially since local sources are unclear on how long the work will last.

Businesses have already experienced a year of reduced foot traffic and road delays as Sturbridge installed new water and sewer lines, and various people think it will take another year or even two to finish the project.

"It hurts business tremendously overall," said Chamber of Commerce Director Alexandra McNitt. " But it's been well over a decade in planning and there's not much that can be done about it."

One of the larger firms on the affected stretch is Big Bunny market, but it has an advantage some others lack — people can access it by "the back route" from Pleasant Street, Southbridge. Still, owner Peter Cournoyer said he's concerned about the delays and is considering pushing the market's hours later into the evening so people can get there after construction stops for the day.

Based on last summer's work, he said, "If they work on half the road and have plenty of police details to keep traffic moving, people don't mind construction." Otherwise, people who "don't have a choice" will sit in the traffic, while everyone else "isn't even going to come close" to that area, he said.

Scott Garieri's in a similar boat, with his jewelry shop right in the middle of the construction zone. But he's optimistic about it, noting "adversity in a situation sparks creativity."

Garieri, who's also a Sturbridge selectman, said he talks to the MassHighway crews daily because their temporary office is right next to his store. He offered to send regular e-mail alerts to businesses along that stretch if they contact him at sgarieri@aol.com.

See Thursday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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