ELKHART — Over the summer, construction on S.R. 19 on the west side of Elkhart nearly drove Debbie Zimmerman to the brink.
“With all the pounding, the vibrations, that was not fun,” the woman, a receptionist at a doctor’s office on S.R. 19, said Thursday.
Now, though the work proceeds, things don’t seem as disruptive, at least in her view. “Now that they’re on the other side of the road, it isn’t bad at all,” she said, alluding to a shift last month in the focus of work from the west side of S.R. 19 to the east side.
Up S.R. 19 at Shekinah Asian Grocery Store and Deli, meanwhile, it’s a different story altogether. Business plummeted after the road improvement project took off in May, and though sales have rebounded marginally, revenue is still way off. Sales on Wednesday, notes Edna Padilla, one of the owners, totaled a measly $15.
“The people that want to come here and eat can’t really come here,” Padilla said, noting the congestion caused by the upgrade, a deterrent to would-be clients.
As the massive S.R. 19 overhaul continues, the views on the work — launched five months ago in May — remain mixed. It’s still a headache for many motorists, but with the specter of a smooth, wider roadway once the work is finished, many just focus on things to come.
“I think it will be nice once finished,” said Lynn Toby, a paralegal at a law firm on S.R. 19. She’s had her share of woes — delays coming back to work from lunch, long detours and more.
NO LEFT TURNS
The $14.84 million S.R. 19 project, overseen by the Indiana Department of Transportation, calls for the addition of a center turn lane along much of the roadway between Lusher and Beardsley avenues, a busy commercial corridor. The focus this spring, summer and fall has been the area north of the St. Joseph River to Beardsley Avenue, meaning traffic snarls, backups and more, though INDOT has maintained access to businesses through it all.
These days, one of the key gripes is the inability to make left-hand turns. INDOT asks motorists not to make left turns because it can cause back-ups behind autos waiting for a break in the action to make the maneuver. Traffic on S.R. 19, also known as Nappanee Street, has temporarily been narrowed from two lanes in each direction to one north of the St. Joseph River to accommodate the work, increasing congestion.
Accordingly, Toby said she’s had to take long detours after work to get home. The quickest route home would be to turn left, north, out of her law firm’s parking lot. But she can only go right, south, necessitating a trip past Lexington Avenue and the St. Joseph River all the way to Indiana Avenue, where left turns are finally permitted.
On the bright side, Lexington Avenue, closed on Sept. 8 on the east side of S.R. 19 in the construction zone, reopened on Tuesday, though left-hand turns onto the street remain off limits.
Moreover, it’s got to finish sometime. Last month, INDOT officials said the S.R. 19 upgrade between the St. Joseph River and Beardsley Avenue would be largely done sometime in November, heralding smoother traffic flow.
“I will be really, really glad when this thing is over,” said Padilla.
In 2013, the focus of the work turns to S.R. 19 south of the St. Joseph River to Lusher Avenue. The project is to be completely finished by August 2014.