'It's really bad': Business owners frustrated by Belleville roundabout project

News-DemocratOctober 14, 2013 

— Business owners say they are upset about recently imposed road closures near a roundabout project on Illinois 158 at the interchange with Illinois 15 and South Belt West.

Since last week, eastbound and westbound traffic on South Belt West near the work site has been blocked by barricades, frustrating motorists in their efforts to get to businesses and residences in the area.

Aaron Bahr, owner of Far East Fitness at 813 South Belt West, said the Illinois Department of Transportation could help if it put up detour signs to let drivers know what's going on. He said he's worried the confusing situation -- which could be in place for another year -- is going to be devastating for his company's bottom line.

"As far as direct effect of losing out on clients, I can't say yet," Bahr said. "But I've had a lot of complaints from gym members that they're having a tough time getting here. We're a new business. We just opened up in January. So this isn't helping us to build up our customer base."

If the traffic jams weren't enough of a problem, Bahr said confused drivers who try to avoid the detour are filling his parking lot with cars as they use it as a place to turn around.

"I believe our parking lot is now the official turn-around area," Bahr said. "I was standing outside and 15 cars turned around in our parking lot in five minutes. Plus there is the sound of jackhammers and other heavy equipment.

"I'm worried about it," Bahr said. "We're new enough that I'm afraid people will just try to find a new place to go."

Delores Loness, who works at the D&D Motors used car dealership at the intersection of Illinois 158 and South Belt West, said that not only has business dropped off since the detour was opened, she's had motorists pepper her with salty language.

"It's really bad," Loness said. "We're way down because people don't want to mess with the traffic. And I've been called bad names by the ones who do come through because I try to tell people not to turn around in our lot because I'm afraid they're going to hit the cars."

Tom Borsch, an IDOT supervising field engineer, said the $4.7 million double roundabout project is ahead of schedule.

He said workers are aiming to finish the southern roundabout by the end of October. Then the on- and off-ramps for eastbound Illinois 15 that are currently shut down will be open to motorists.

The northern roundabout is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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