Stone County Merchants Cope With Road Project - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/13/04

Stone County Merchants Cope With Road Project

A wider, safer Highway 49 is taking shape in Stone County.

But business owners in the construction zone are paying a price for that progress. They're losing customers because of limited access to their businesses during the road work.

Although merchants support the widening work, they worry about the financial impact of the project.

Construction workers enjoy the country cooking at "V's Buffet" in McHenry. They're regulars for lunch. But the owners worry the closing of a nearby access road may be a recipe for ruin.

"Even after the holidays, we weathered the holidays and everything was looking pretty decent. Then just out of the clear blue sky I look up and they're putting barricades across there," said owner Chet Rogers.

He says blocking the access road off Old Highway 49 could be disastrous. His restaurant is left with just one entrance.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation built a crossover specifically for the nearby businesses. Trouble is, some customers are hesitant to make the turn off the two way road during peak traffic times.

"If they missed this entrance, they could go on down to the four lane highway and go around and come in. And everybody got used to that," explained Rogers.

The restaurant has already cut costs, including reducing the staff by more than half.

"We're doing everything we can to survive. We get a lot of construction workers, but it's not enough. When they closed this road yesterday, it was really a hard blow. They did it right at lunch," said Veronica Rogers.

Most everyone we talked with in Stone County told WLOX News the road project was badly needed. But the progress comes with a price. Early on, there were numerous accidents until drivers got used to the temporary two way traffic. And business owners have always known that access would be an ongoing concern.

The owner of the nearby Pecan House admits business has dropped substantially because of the construction work. Merchants are doing all they can to attract customers and no doubt counting the days until the widening work is over.

An M-DOT spokesman says the department has worked with merchants to keep business access open. The access road off Old Highway 49 should be re-opened in about two weeks.

By Steve Phillips 

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