Jean Van Hoose has a club for regular customers who have bought their sewing machines at Abbey Sew & Vacuum. And when they showed up Tuesday, Van Hoose cheered for them.
“There were 28 people here, and the construction didn’t keep them away,” Van Hoose said, pointing at the “road closed” sign on South Buchanan Street, outside her shop. “I gave them a big round of applause.”
Edwardsville motorists are finding new routes to and from downtown, and business owners are crossing their fingers as construction continues on South Buchanan.
South Buchanan, which connects to Troy Road in the south side of Edwardsville, has been narrowed to two lanes for several months as the city is in the process of a complete replacement of the road. It is one of three major roads that connect north and south Edwardsville, along with Illinois 157 and the relocated Illinois 159, and is one of the more heavily-trafficked roads in Edwardsville, according to assistant city engineer David Sirko. Approximately 12,000 to 14,000 cars pass down South Buchanan every day, and it intersects with Schwarz and Route 143, which are major thoroughfares for Edwardsville traffic.
Starting this week, South Buchanan is closed from Schwarz Street near Annie’s Custard to the MCT trail near Market Basket. The intersections at Linden and Wolf streets are closed to all traffic, and detour routes have been posted.
While the road’s layout and lane configuration are not changing, the city is replacing the water main and storm sewer system, doing a partial replacement of sanitary sewers, and replacing sidewalks, ramps, curbs, crosswalks and the pavement itself. The existing asphalt is also being replaced with concrete.
12,000-14,000 cars pass down South Buchanan every day
“There were a lot of drainage issues, primarily at the intersections,” Sirko said. “It was also the age of the original pavement underneath the asphalt overlay. It was starting to crumble and disappear.”
Due to the cost of the continual upkeep on the road, city leaders decided to completely replace it, including replacing asphalt with concrete. Concrete costs more up front, Sirko said, but the maintenance makes it more cost-effective in the end.
So far, the new water main has been installed and services are being switched over. The new storm sewer has been installed from Park Street to Schwarz, and the roadway, sidewalk and driveway pavement has been replaced from Vandalia Street to Schwarz.
But while the road was narrowed to allow previous phases to take place and only slowed traffic to and from downtown, now the road is closed completely until May 8. Traffic is flowing onto the relocated Illinois 159 and through side streets.
The $2.5 million project is wholly funded by the city of Edwardsville. While once South Buchanan/Troy Road was a state highway, it reverted to city jurisdiction once Route 159 was rerouted to the west.
For business owners along the mostly-commercial stretch, the construction is a mixed lot. Small entrances on either side of the road have been left open for AutoZone and Edward Jones on the west side and the Market Basket shopping complex on the left. For other businesses further north, such as Dairy Queen, back roads and alleys will be the only access.
$2.5 million cost of the South Buchanan road project
“There have been some comments on both sides,” Sirko said. “The local businesses had big concerns over the shutdowns.”
It’s been awfully quiet for Michael’s Arms and Accessories, according to manager Tom Johnson. “People who live right here in town know to go around to the alley through the bank,” Johnson said. But for customers from out of town, trying to get to his store is proving difficult. “The whole plaza is not as busy as it usually is,” he said.
Van Hoose said she doesn’t think it’s affecting her business as much, because her customers are familiar with the area around her longtime store. “I think we have a really loyal base of customers,” she said. “It’s probably affected us somewhat, for people who aren’t as familiar with us and might be looking for us, but for our customer base, not as much.”
The Pedego electric bike shop next door has a different problem: The bikes they display out on the sidewalk keep getting covered with construction dust. Manager Dave “Archie” Archer Jr. has to go out and wipe them down several times a day.
On the other hand, they’re also having their best month ever.
“Most of my business comes from out of state,” Archer said. “They find us on the Internet ... I guess once you’ve driven 40 miles, you don’t give up easy.” They seem to be finding the alley entrances to the shopping center, he said.
It should be a nice road for many years to come.
David Sirko, Edwardsville’s assistant city engineer
Johnson said he’s more concerned with the speed at which the workers are moving. He pointed at the site, devoid of workers during a recent afternoon. “They’ve been gone for hours now,” he said. “I wish they would focus and get it done.”
Sirko said that is another problem they’ve had: Some of the work they’re doing isn’t all that visual. “Underground work doesn’t seem all that impressive,” he said. “We dig a hole, we put a pipe in, cover it up. It doesn’t look like we’ve done much.”
Documents on the city website say the road will reopen May 8. However, Sirko said that is the longest possible time Baxmeyer Constrution can have the road closed. He is hopeful it may be much less — perhaps a 10-day closure instead of 21 days.
Likewise, the whole project is slated to be finished by November, but Sirko said that also is a “worst-case scenario.”
“We anticipate being done far before that,” he said. “It should be a nice road for many years to come.”