With the Fourth of July holiday leading into a busy resort area summer, storefronts along Del. 26 haven’t seen the same business they’re accustomed to this time of year. But opinion is divided over what’s causing the commercial slowdown.
Construction on the Del. 26 widening project has reduced traffic to a crawl during lane closures from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. At the intersection of Del. 26 and Town Center Road, both the Food Lion and Giant supermarkets have reported a drop in business after 7 p.m., according to Ken Cimino, public outreach coordinator for the Del. 26 project.
At Charlie K’s BBQ in Ocean View, the prime dinner time has been delayed due to the evening lane closures, said Mark Wlosinski, manager at the eatery. The barbecue joint still gets steady business around 6 p.m., but the evening rush comes at 8 p.m. instead now.
“Last night we had a guy who sat in traffic for 30 minutes just to get here,” he said. “We really wish they had [the closure] at 8, we’d be sitting a lot better come July.”
On June 24, Cimino said he was in the early stages of exploring a delayed start to nightly construction later this summer, but he has not established a plan yet.
“We’re aware of how much [traffic] is going to increase as they go into July,” he said. “Now that school’s out, we realize the vacation trends are going to change.”
Some local stores suspect dips in business are due to a later start to summer vacation, rather than road closures.
Though many Delmarva students celebrated the series of snow days this winter, school districts made up time with more school days at the end of the year.
Ocean View Seafood owner Dave Long has seen a 10 percent decrease in sales so far this season, but business is steady considering most families have not kicked summer into full gear. Long operates until 7 p.m. during the week and 8 p.m. on the weekends, when construction is halted.
“It’s a little slower than it has been the last couple years,” he said. “The construction doesn’t seem to deter them. As of yet, I would say it’s pretty much a nonfactor.”
Still, other business owners argue the appearance of construction has deterred potential customers from Del. 26.
Signs labeled “Road Work Ahead” stationed at each end of the project and at major intersections remain on Del. 26 throughout the day.
The notices have turned away buyers at the Ellen Rice Gallery, said the gallery’s eponymous owner.
The signs are a federal requirement for the project and warn drivers of a change in roadway condition, not necessarily a lane closure, Cimino said.
While her higher end and commissioned sales have increased this year, the gallery’s foot traffic has decreased due to signs indicating construction, Rice said.
“One person I’m doing a portrait for used back roads because she was under the impression that there were flaggers up and down [Del.] 26,” she said. “The signs have a potential to cause problems.”
Del. 26 traffic woes
• According to an October 2012 survey from the Delaware Department of Transportation, 68 out of 194 businesses and residents along Del. 26 preferred night construction for the road project. Nine of those 194 replied no.
• Businesses point to the late start of summer vacation for many regional schools as one cause of the slow start to the season.
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