Economic Development

Businesses Brace for Another Route 224 Project

CANFIELD, Ohio — Businesses are divided on the impact of disruptions to traffic patterns the work at U.S. Route 224 and state Route 11 will bring in the coming weeks.

The $6.5 million project include replacing and widening the Route 224 overpass above Route 11 and widening Raccoon Road at 224 and the Route 11 southbound ramp onto the road.

“Completion date for this project is October but it’s going to be starting here in the next two weeks,” reports Brent Kovacs, public information officer for the District 4 office of Ohio Department of Transportation.

Road restrictions involve taking 224 down to one lane in both directions as the overpass is replaced. Restrictions begin March 23.

Kovacs and ODOT colleague Justin Chesnic visited businesses near the project Tuesday to distribute brochures and provide other information about the work.

“Basically it’s alerting businesses to what work is coming and what kind of restrictions there’s going to be, the dates, how long these are going to be and any detours that there will be,” Kovacs says. ODOT officials similarly visited businesses in eastern Boardman near 224 before the start of improvements at the Interstate 680 interchange in 2013.

One business Kovacs and Chesnic visited Tuesday morning was Curiosity Shop in the Hilltop Village Plaza, just west of the Route 11 southbound ramp.

“As long as there’s still one lane open in both directions, I really don’t anticipate a problem with our customers getting here to the shop because we have people coming in from all sides – north, south, east and west,” remarks Diane Laudo, co-owner of the upscale women’s consignment shop. “I’m really hoping that our customers are not discouraged into coming and bringing their things in and shopping with us.”

The plaza has “a nice blend” of establishments, Laudo adds, and she “would hate to see anyone lose any business” during the construction.

At Zenobia’s Middle Eastern Cuisine, another Hilltop tenant, owner Izdihar Mansour was less optimistic. “It’s going to be very, very tough. It’s not good for business at all,” she says.

Business suffered during this winter’s especially frigid weather, she reports. The upcoming roadwork will affect weekends, when a belly dancer usually performs, as well as the normally busy summer season, Mansour says. In addition to the road restrictions, she expects the noise from the work will curtail outdoor dining and parties.

The work “absolutely” will harm business at Something New Floral and Event, says Anna Howells, co-owner. Just east of the northbound Route 11 onramp to 224, the shop already is difficult to enter and exit, and the restrictions will make access even more daunting.

Howells is particularly concerned about the effect on casual, walk-in traffic.

“We have a beautiful showroom that that’s the only way you see it,” she laments. “So it is definitely going to affect our sales.” Once the work is done, traffic flow should improve because of the new turn lanes, she acknowledges. “At least the cars won’t be backed up so far so traffic will move faster,” she adds.

At Coventry Lighting Design Center on Raccoon Road, just north of 224, interior designer Frank Daloise is confident his business will ride out the construction work.

“We’ll be all right,” he predicts. “I don’t think it affects us as much as the businesses that are right in front of where [the work] is happening.” In the long run, he sees the improvements “definitely” benefiting the business.

“There’s no way we can do a construction project without affecting business in some way,” ODOT’s Kovacs says. “But we try to lessen that effect and make them aware of what’s going on, let them know they can get in contact if they have any issues with the project.”

One unavoidable issue will be the congestion that returned every year when the Canfield Fair is held, the last week of August and ending Labor Day.

“We look to have all the work completed on Raccoon Road so it’ll be easy access onto Raccoon. But the one lane in each direction will be in effect throughout the fair,” Kovacs acknowledges. “We are adding a turning lane on north- and southbound Raccoon road so we believe that will help alleviate some of the traffic coming from the fair. But we do recognize that will be down to one lane in each direction on 224 during the fair.”

Businesses won’t like the restrictions in place during the coming months “but they understand that we need to replace the bridge and maintain the roadway system,” Kovacs says.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.