The road construction along Pontiac Trail and West Maple Road in Walled Lake has been hampering businesses, despite the efforts made by the city and the Walled Lake Downtown Development Authority (DDA) to prevent just that.
The road project that began in mid-July involves a complete road reconstruction, where the existing concrete is removed and new concrete is laid on Pontiac Trail from South Commerce to just south of East West Maple. In addition, another 1,000-foot section along Maple east of Pontiac Trail will be replaced.
Curb and gutter replacement will also occur, and a new traffic signal configuration will be installed at the Maple and Pontiac Trail intersection. The railroad crossing will be removed.
According to Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) Spokesperson Craig Bryson, the project is moving along at an unfettered pace.
“Most of the concrete has been placed on southbound Pontiac Trail,” Bryson said. “Also, concrete has been placed in two lanes on Maple, both east and west of Pontiac Trail.”
“Currently, the contractor is working on filling in the gaps in southbound Pontiac Trail, where the concrete had not been placed to ensure access to homes and businesses; as well as pouring driveways and curbs for the southbound side of Pontiac Trail,” he said.
South Commerce reopened to traffic on Friday, Aug. 17.
But despite the progress, merchants in the area have noticed a steady decline in business.
“It has been a bit of a detriment, but the roads are so bad,” said Murray’s Auto Store Manager Damon Martinez. “There’s never a good time to do the work, but it needs to be done.”
He added that while the store has noticed a dip in sales, the store continues to count on its regular patrons.
“Loyal customers still come in and the sales have been impacted a bit, but it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be,” Martinez said.
He said that signage erected at Walled Lake welcome entrances and the patience of police have been helpful.
“The police have been really helpful in accommodating patrons who cut through by not ticketing,” Martinez said.
Walled Lake Police Chief Paul Shakinas said vehicle crashes are up 20 percent from last year and he attributes the spike to the construction project.
“We are monitoring traffic and advising people to slow down and use the detour route and not cut through business (parking lots),” Shakinas said.
The Big Boy on Pontiac Trail across from the railroad tracks has sustained a greater hardship, but regular patrons still find their way into the restaurant.
“The construction is hitting us pretty hard,” said Steve Blanco, the restaurant’s manager. “The signage is good and well appreciated, but people are staying away. We’ve had a lot of support by our regular guests, so we are just tightening our belts to make it through.”
The McDonald’s on Maple Road tried a new marketing strategy during the construction. For businesses only, the eatery would deliver on orders of $10 or more.
“Our sales are down,” said Eula Rangel, manager of the McDonald’s. “People are avoiding the whole stretch.”
The city held a meeting in the winter to inform businesses of the road project. It also erected signage stating that businesses would be open during construction and efforts were made to visit individual businesses.
“The city manager (L. Dennis Whitt) and Wendell Allen (chairman of the DDA Urban and Design Committee) personally visited most of the businesses,” said Walled Lake Department of Public Works Coordinator Lisa McGill. “We are not aware of too many complaints, although some businesses have realized a slight decrease.”