Route 35 construction: Holiday work schedule frustrates Addessi, Marconi
Holiday shoppers won’t be stuck in stop-and-go traffic on Danbury Road this month but plans to continue construction work at the Route 35 bridge site up until Christmastime are frustrating business owners and town officials alike.
“You’ve got 11 months of the year to work on this, why do you need to work on this through the month of December?” said Wayne Addessi, owner of Addessi Jewelers on Main Street, in response to plans to halt work at the site from Saturday, Dec. 23 through Monday, Jan. 1.
Charles Murad, an engineer with the state’s Department of Transportation (DoT), said that for the rest of the month traffic should flow normally in both directions, as crews continue to work by the side of the road.
“We’ll be open both ways,” he told The Press Monday, Dec. 4.
Is that enough of a reprieve for Addessi, who last year pushed hard enough to delay work at the site for the entire month of December?
Not quite. He called the Dec. 23 shutoff date “absurd.”
Addessi pointed out that most retail stores do anywhere from 30% to a third of their total sales during the holiday season.
“People get frustrated sitting in traffic. Whether you’re going to your lawyer for a meeting or going shopping, people get frustrated — and they’re going to go somewhere else,” he told The Press Wednesday, Dec. 6.
“What does it take in this community to get people to realize that it’s about community and commerce?” Addessi said. “It’s about the people who live here, and the businesses that work here.”
Speaking at the Board of Selectmen meeting Nov. 29, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the Route 35 bridge had two lanes open but there is “still going to be a lot of work” done at the site. Crews will work on landscaping in the spring, he said.
"Will that be the end of it?” asked Selectman Steve Zemo. “Could the rest not wait until after Christmas?"
"People are fed up with it, as am I,” Marconi said.
“I spoke with the commissioner [of transportation],” he added.
Marconi said that the commissioner assured him that Baier — the project’s contractor — would never work in town again.
Murad noted that it is “very easy” for drivers to detour around the construction site. Motorists can use Farmingville road to connect to Route 7, he explained, which routes them around the congestion caused by the bridgework.
Crews at the work site directed alternating traffic Monday, Dec. 4, to allow for the removal of the temporary bridge that was built to allow traffic to flow around the permanent bridge’s construction site.
“There are no other alternating days set in stone,” said Ryan Wodjenski, who handles public relations for the state DoT. “It is all dependent on weather and work needs.”
Murad said drivers could expect to see “periodic alternating traffic, but not with the frequency they’ve been used to during the course of the project.”
While Addessi acknowledged drivers could simply use a navigation app to get around the worst of the traffic, he said that because the work affects a major town artery, it could negatively affect commerce in town.
“This is too big, too important, for us not to do anything — I would encourage everyone to reach out to Rudy, and the Department of Transportation, and let’s halt this project through the new year.”