|Businesses relieved MJ Road construction ending next week|
|Thursday, May 10, 2012|
By PATRICK HALL
Business owners along North Mt. Juliet Road are relieved to hear the construction stretching the length of the major thoroughfare is to be complete next Friday, and many are looking forward to the benefits of having the road widened.
“I’m definitely relieved that it’s finally opening,” said Jason Gregory, general manager of The Corner Pub, located at 4136 N. Mt. Juliet Road.
Officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation said the construction will finally be complete on Friday, May 18, after three years of work. The project began in 2009 and was budgeted at $8.9 million.
The work widens North Mt. Juliet Road to five lanes from Interstate 40 to Highway 70. TDOT Community Relations Officer Deanna Lambert said the contractor, LoJac Enterprises, has until May 25 to finish, but said everything is expected to be done a week before that date.“Mt. Juliet Road should be open and all lanes drivable on Friday, May 18, barring any weather or other unforeseen delays,” Lambert said. “However, the contractor technically has until May 25 to completely finish, so they may have to tie up some loose ends between those dates.”
Since the construction brought with it closed lanes, orange barrels and obstructions to parking lots along North Mt. Juliet Road, business owners have not been shy about voicing their concerns.
“The construction has been an ordeal at times and has cost some people their businesses,” said Shelter Insurance Agent Sherry Oliver, who owns the building where her office is located at 2334 N. Mt. Juliet Road.
Tom Courtney, owner of Courtney’s Restaurant & Catering at 4066 N. Mt. Juliet Road, said he knew many business owners who had to close their doors during the construction.
“It’s just a shame that we lost about 13 businesses,” he said.
During the construction, businesses that didn’t close their doors may have experienced difficult times. Courtney said the gas to his restaurant was shut off twice during the construction as crews hit gas lines and had to shut them off as a result.
Congested traffic and the time it takes to travel down Mt. Juliet Road during the construction also was seen as having hindered customers from going into local businesses. Gregory said he felt they lost some business to other restaurants not located along the construction.
“Usually, they’ll stop at another restaurant before they get to us, instead of drive 15 to 20 minutes to travel 3 miles,” Gregory said.
Judy Franslau, owner of Billy Goat Coffee Café at 3690 N. Mt. Juliet Road, said she heard from customers that getting into the parking lot was made difficult by the construction and at times turned them away.
“We did have customers come in and say they were going to stop in but couldn’t get in the parking lot,” she said.
However, despite the setbacks some businesses experienced and the unsightly and often snarled traffic, most business owners see the widening project as beneficial in the long run. While some closed their doors due to the construction and slowed business, others opened their doors with an eye toward the future.
Frenslau said she opened the Billy Goat Café in 2010 and knew the construction would be tough on business for a short period of time, but after its completion, would benefit the café in the long run.
“We knew we wanted this spot,” she said, pointing out the lure of being on the new five-lane road drove them to locate where they are today. “We are very glad, and the road is looking great.”
Courtney also opened his business during the construction and said he hopes the widened roadway will bring more customers to their restaurant. He said despite troubles during the construction, they’ve remained upbeat.
“I’m very grateful that it’s finally opening,” he said. “We are upbeat about it.”
West Wilson/Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce President Mark Hinesley said the opening of the roadway has been something “dozens and dozens of businesses and thousands of commuters have been anxiously awaiting.”
Gregory said once the roadway opens completely, he is confident it will bring more people and more customers to that area of Mt. Juliet. While the city has experienced a lot of growth around Providence MarketPlace, he said things would improve on the north side of the city thanks to the completed construction.
“Once it opens up, I think it’ll definitely speed things along on this side of town,” Gregory noted.
Oliver noted while some businesses may have been adversely affected by the construction during the past three years, the end product is expected to benefit all businesses along North Mt. Juliet Road.
Hinesley said the local business community was grateful to the citizens of Mt. Juliet and Wilson County for continuing to support the businesses owned and operated by local people.
“Thank you to everyone who has continued to support these local businesses during such a difficult time,” the Chamber president added.