Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 24
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Businesses Suffering In Both Townships During Construction

Anne Levin

The closing of Alexander Road between Canal Pointe Boulevard and Canal Road during road reconstruction has caused problems for area businesses on the Princeton side of the project as well as for Obal Garden Market, which is on the West Windsor side.

“This has affected 50 percent of my gasoline volume and 25 to 30 percent of my bay business,” said Ken Larini of Larini’s Service Center last week. “We’re going to be closing on Sundays and at 7 p.m. weekdays because of no traffic. I’ve let two people go.”

While no staff has been let go from the restaurant Metro North, owner Tony Vitella acknowledged that business has been slow. “It has affected our lunch tremendously,” he said. “Dinner time it hasn’t been bad, but lunch, I’d say we’re probably off 75 percent. It’s not good.”

The situation is similar at Soonja’s Cafe. “It’s been very bad for us,” said manager John Chung. “At rush hour there is not even half the traffic that is usual. Dinner is bad, and lunch is bad, too. There are just less people using the road.”

Lucas Construction Group has been working since late May to re-align the portion of Alexander Road for better drainage and sanitary sewer repairs. The project also involves widening the roadway, adding bicycle lanes to the shoulders, and a sidewalk on the residential side. A full closure with a 24-hour-a-day detour is in place through the end of June, requiring drivers to detour using Route 1, Washington Road, and Faculty Road. West Windsor Township is overseeing the project.

Customers are allowed access to businesses as long as they stop and tell the police officer stationed at the site where they are going, said Francis Guzik, West Windsor Township Engineer. But there are times when construction work makes access impossible.

Mr. Guzik said Metro North has been permitted to put up additional signage, and the township has modified the message boards at Faculty Road and Canal Pointe Boulevard to make it clear that the businesses are open.

Mr. Larini said he was told originally that the project was set for July, which would have been less damaging to his service station. “This closing was done the day after [Princeton University] graduation, and Princeton never notified anyone because it was a West Windsor situation,” he said. “You had to go on the West Windsor website to get clarification. Princeton Township never told anyone. I was never approached or told of anything that was going on down here. They just closed it right down. We only have the last couple of weeks of June to do anything, because July and August become dead in summer. They killed us by doing this in June.”

Vitella said he has had difficulty getting information about how long the project will take. “I’ve gotten different answers from a bunch of different people,” he said. “It would be nice if we knew. The worst part of it all is that we really don’t know what’s going on.”

According to Robert V. Kiser, Princeton Township Engineer and Director of Public Works, variable message boards advising of the closing were in place a month before construction began, and notice was placed in local newspapers. The Township was approached by Metro North about placing additional signage. “That’s the only business we heard from. If we had heard from any others about their concerns, we certainly would have responded,” he said.

Mr. Guzik said there is no change in the anticipated completion date of the project. “The contractor is aggressively pursuing his work, throwing in extra people, which we’re happy about,” he said.

After June 29, it is expected that there will be partial lane closures from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. until the project is fully completed.

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