ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. -- After two long years of construction on one of Elkhart County’s main roads, the Indiana Department of Transportation said the orange cones that line U.S. 33 for miles in Dunlap will be gone by Nov. 6, but business owners told ABC 57 the wrap-up date cannot come soon enough.
The construction has not only slowed down traffic for drivers, but also traffic into local automotive dealers, gas stations, and other companies along the 2.2 mile stretch of road between Elkhart and Goshen.
“I hear all over town, oh, I won’t even go close to 33, it’s such a mess. And God bless them, I understand how they feel, it’s a big mess for me,” said Mark Mancewicz, who owns Market Motors.
Mancewicz said the newer curb in the center of the road that divides the traffic is anything business friendly.
“I did very, very well before they put that curb in. Now, the traffic can’t even pull in. It’s making it real dangerous. Nobody can pull in, so they go down the intersection and then do U-turns,” said Mancewicz.
He said that is what is ironic, since the Indiana Department of Transportation has claimed the $10 million project will reduce accidents, and make the flow of traffic smoother for drivers.
“It’s terrifically more dangerous. The engineers that did this, I got to talk to some of them in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, they’re going by a book. And there was rarely anyone up here to actually see how the traffic flows,” he said.
Several businesses have expressed similar frustrations, like Concord Cars.
“We had to go down and ask questions several times. They had the strike, that no one knew anything about. And delays, and stuff like that. So no, it’s not been easy and stuff for business in the area,” said Keith Burnette, General Manager at Concord Cars.
Burnette said construction workers even dug up the driveway, but did not repave for months.
“They just left it there, dirt and stuff, and said ‘see ya next spring,’ cones flying all over the place, dirt all over our cars, so it made it difficult,” he said.
Burnette said on top of that, debris from the construction constantly coats the cars the company is trying to sell to the buyers that actually brave the traffic.
“It’s just increased our cost of keeping cars and inventory clean, inside and out. We can’t open up the vehicles to show them. So it makes it just a little bit tougher, a little more expensive to do business.”
Mancewicz said he has the same problem, “It’s very, very, very, very filthy. It’s dirty. We wash the cars a lot, just to keep things clean.”
Several business owners were also concerned over the lack of communication by state officials, and the resulting uncertainty.
“Are they doing it right? Oh no! Is there any kind of personal, physical, any kind of communication at all? None! Zero, zip.,” said Mancewicz. “Any kind of communication has been done by business owners, or anyone that’s concerned with the street. And if you go there, you’re going to get the same red tape. You’re going to go from office to office, and get real frustrated yourself.”
“They should have been a lot more forthcoming, on top of it. Pushed it, shoved it, whatever to help us out. Because if we lose business, they lose money,” added Burnette.
And money is a top concern for many of the tax-paying businesses. Several have even closed-shop because of the roadblocks.
“You pay a lot of money to be on the street, we’re still paying the taxes higher than crazy. The taxes are being paid like you wouldn’t believe,” said Mancewicz. “What it costs me to be on this street is phenomenal. And, we just got a rate hike that’s higher again!”
The stretch of U.S. 33 under construction is a main gateway between Elkhart and Goshen.
Construction started in August of 2009, and business owners told ABC 57 officials said the construction would take about two years.