Lack of traffic impacts Valley Brook businesses
Businesses on Valley Brook Road have been feeling the effects of the ramp and road closure.
Terri Johnson / The Almanac
Mike Beck, left, project supervisor, and Scott Gamble, a laborer with Gulisek Construction in Mt. Pleasant, stand above a stream their company is rebuilding under Valley Brook Road during the reconstruction of Valley Brook at Route 19 in Peters Township Thursday.
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Two months into a 14-month, $4 million project by the state Department of Transportation to realign and reconstruct the intersection of the Valley Brook Road ramp and Washington Road, the lack of traffic flowing in front of several businesses is having some impact.
Cindy Jennings, who said she is in administration at the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company and School, 210 Valley Brook Road, needs an additional five minutes, following her own detour through residential streets, to drive to the ballet company from her Mt. Lebanon home. If she used the posted detour using state-owned streets, Jennings estimates the trip would take an additional 20 minutes.
The construction, which is visible from the ballet company windows, has affected business, but not drastically.
Since ballet classes are planned well in advance, that side of the business is unchanged. However, there is no drive-by interest, and clients traveling from the Pittsburgh area are often confused by the detours, or lack of detour signs, Jennings said.
“We tell them to park their car on the other side and walk up the trail,” Jennings said.
Southbound traffic is permitted to exit Washington Road by a ramp that leads to Valley Brook on the western side of the construction. Returning to Washington Road, also known as Route 19, is not as easy, with unmarked detours on township roads through residential neighborhoods.
While traffic is prohibited from traveling under the overpass that carries Washington Road, Arrowhead Trail, which runs parallel to Valley Brook Road, remains open for walkers and bikers. However, parking in the lot next to the sewage treatment plant to walk the trail can be at a premium.
An employee at webuyanycar.com, next to the ballet company, said he could not comment about a drop in business, and a call to the main office in Philadelphia seeking information was not returned.
Likewise, dogs could be heard barking at the Pooch Pit, the third of three businesses in St. Petersburg Center, but a request for information was not returned.
More than a mile from the actual construction, but still on the “road closed” position, Washington Financial Bank, 430 Valley Brook Road, is open for business.
“Our Valley Brook Road office has remained open during construction, and we have seen very little reduction in our branch traffic,” said Kristen Painter, branch manager. “Nonetheless, we are doing things to remind our customers that even with the detour inconvenience, we are here for them. Among other initiatives, we have recently purchased a coin-counting machine, which we make available to our customers at no charge, we hold frequent picnics with hot dogs, snacks and beverages, we even provide water on the (Arrowhead) Trail for walkers and joggers. We do, of course, look forward to the completion of the construction, but we are committed to ‘toughing it out’ for as long as it takes.”
On a sultry summer day, business was brisk at nearby Opeka Auto Repair Co., 440 Valley Brook Road, and there was a long line at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, 444 Valley Brook Road.
The road project is being done by Gulisek Construction and is expected to be completed in July 2014.
When construction was beginning in mid-May, traffic was expected to be horrendous, and while traffic is heavier on detour routes, including Hays and Boyce roads in Upper St. Clair Township, the predicted nightmare has not occurred.
Upper St. Clair acting police Chief Douglas Burkholder said there has been an increase in traffic, such as on the Upper St. Clair portion of Hays Road, but nothing like anticipated.
The first few weeks after the beginning of construction, Burkholder said police received complaints, mainly of vehicles cutting through residential streets and speeding in an effort to make up time.
“The first couple of weeks, we set up traffic controls, when there’s that learning curve,” Burkholder said. “Now, they’ve settled down and gotten a routine.”
And while traffic often backs up along East McMurray Road in Peters Township, the prediction of extremely heavy traffic has not happened.
“It’s gone smoother than I anticipated,” said Michael Silvestri, Peters Township manager. He said the township has received reports of mailboxes being struck and damaged, and of speeding vehicles on residential streets.
Silvestri said there is more traffic on Hays, East McMurray, Center Church and Thompsonville roads. Traffic on West McMurray Road frequently backs up, he added.
“We did a traffic study on Hays with the traffic counts pre- and post-start of construction,” Silvestri said. Pre-construction, traffic on the Peters Township portion of Hays Road was between 1,700 and 1,800 vehicles each day. After construction began and Valley Brook Road was closed, Silvestri said about 4,000 cars were recorded each day on Hays Road.
Jennings said she knows the detour will be in place for at least another year, and she is frustrated constantly giving directions to drivers attempting to reach the ballet company. However, she’s trying to keep a positive attitude while driving the detour to and from work.
“I enjoy the ride better and see new places,” Jennings said.