Glenwood construction slows businesses

Staff WritersJune 26, 2010 

— Business owners along a torn-up section of Glenwood Avenue worry that an additional two months of road construction will dent profits by eliminating parking and discouraging customers.

In the same breath, they acknowledge that the road work is a necessary difficulty that will eventually make traffic flow more smoothly between Five Points and Wade Avenue, a clogged section of the commuter artery that connects downtown to northwest Raleigh.

The chassis-rattling ride south of the Five Points intersection is the roughest stretch of the 2.7-mile-long Glenwood Avenue repaving project.

It started in February as a $1.8 million job but has run into a series of snags that will drive up the cost by as much as $700,000 and add to the inconvenience for motorists, business owners and residents.

Crumbling concrete and old trolley rails stalled repaving between Five Points and Wade Avenue, and DOT engineers decided to remove the old concrete.

"The underlying concrete was dilapidated to the point that it just wasn't fiscally responsible to spend the money to put additional asphalt on top of the concrete," said Dennis Jernigan, who oversees DOT construction in Wake and neighboring counties.

Work on the stretch will resume Monday, with traffic on the four-lane road squeezed into one lane in each direction.

The construction will pinch a busy street that normally carries 30,000 cars and trucks each day. Detours will be marked to divert some drivers onto Oberlin Road, Capital Boulevard and Interstate 440.

"We want to be out of here when school starts back for the fall, and we hope to be through with the whole project by late August," Jernigan said.

Until the work is done, drivers face a bumpy ride. So do Five Points business owners like Bill Peebles, owner of the Rialto Theatre.

"I think it is a shock to merchants and customers how much disruption the construction will cause," Peebles said. "We don't like it, but it has to happen. The street has to be replaced."

Peebles anticipates a significant drop in patronage once DOT tears up parking spaces in front of his art-house theater on the southeast side of Five Points. After DOT officials originally said the work would be finished in June, he's not sure they'll meet the revised deadline.

"I'd like the government and state to do what they say," Peebles said. "They say it will be done by August. I will believe it when I see it."

DOT's contractor, the Fred Smith Co., will dig out the old concrete and rebuild the road with a 13-inch slab of asphalt pavement.

Smith and DOT also are working to iron out problems on a bumpy stretch of Glenwood north of Five Points.

Jernigan explained that sealant poured into joints in the underlying concrete had bubbled in high heat, putting ripples in the new asphalt that was applied on top. A new paving process should keep that problem from spreading, and there are plans to smooth out some of the rough spots.

"Some of the worst bumps that you see out there will be removed," Jernigan said. "I can't say we're necessarily going to get every little minor bump out there, but most of them will be removed."

Jeff Allen, DOT's resident engineer overseeing the Glenwood construction project, said DOT and the City of Raleigh were looking into temporary parking spaces for Five Points customers. He said DOT hoped to provide additional signs notifying motorists that Five Points is open for business despite the disruption.

David Denson, owner of the Third Place Coffee House, a business that fronts Glenwood Avenue on the northwest side of Five Points, said he has cut employee hours as fewer customers have stopped by. With gutter replacements delayed, he added, rain water has pooled in the street for cars to splash on his business' windows.

"It has been rough going on the road," Denson said. "I just hope they get it done soon."

Though the summer may be a trial for Five Points businesses, Tiffany Miller, a manager at Third Place, said sales will pick up in due time.

"It's gotten better," Miller said of the setbacks caused by the construction. "I am so ready for it to be done and all these cones to go away."

mhensch@nando.com or 919-829-8983

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