A prayer for North Main

Published 10:24 pm Friday, December 16, 2016

Another month. Pray for warm weather. In December.

That’s the upshot of a conversation the Suffolk News-Herald’s Tracy Agnew had with an employee of Suffolk’s public works department this week about the interminable work on North Main Street in front of the new Meridian Obici apartments, located on the site of the former Louise Obici Memorial Hospital.

The upgrades were necessary after construction of 224 apartments on the site, and the work has been ongoing for weeks. It includes a new traffic signal, crosswalks, turn lanes, a raised median with landscaping, curb and gutter and a storm drain.

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Motorists have had to deal with an ever-changing nightmare of lane closures on both North Main Street and Godwin Boulevard, causing snarled traffic on both roads, since the work began.

City officials’ assessment of the progress and the expected completion is not encouraging to those who travel the corridor on a regular basis. At best, public works’ Sherry Earley said this week, the project could be complete by the middle of next month.

But that optimistic schedule would require temperatures to be 42 and rising when it finally comes time to lay the pavement, a segment of work that would appear to be far in the future, judging by the amount of work remaining to be done Friday night.

Considering the heavy daytime traffic along this portion of North Main Street, one wonders why the contractor hasn’t been required to work nights on this project.

Even if that meant paying for those who live in houses adjacent to the street there to stay in hotels for the duration, so as not to be disturbed by the construction noise, it would seem that the net economic impact would be positive, considering the loss of productivity for the thousands of daytime drivers who have had to wait in traffic at this chokepoint, not to mention the lost business for merchants whose customers have learned to avoid the road entirely by taking a detour around that part of the city.

Perhaps it’s time for city officials to consider suspending the project entirely until warmer weather is here. That would give everybody time to do a little more planning about how to minimize the impact on Suffolk’s citizens and visitors.