Construction on Hwy. 34 causes headaches for motorists, residents
By Ilish Redmond
Whether it's driving to Mike Dean's for groceries, filling up the car at one of the two gas stations, heading to Hawkesbury, or just going home, the construction on Highway 34 has taken a toll on everyone in Vankleek Hill.
The small distance from Main Street to Hillview Crescent which usually takes less than a minute to cross now takes what seems like an eternity. Apart from being time consuming, the $2.37 million project will fix capacity and safety needs, make the highway a safer pedestrian environment (which includes a new community safety zone/school zone), and improves the storm water drainage system.
Construction on Highway 34 began in June and will continue into November of this year.
Now almost three months into this dusty journey, residents and businesses located on the highway are starting to get impatient and anxious.
Although the construction has been hard on many businesses such as Lamoureux Gardens which had to move its fruit and vegetable stand due to construction and the lack of customers it was receiving, businesses such as Perfect Fit and Fabric Box are doing okay.
Tracy Arnet, an employee at Perfect Fit and Fabric Box, stated that the construction is not affecting their clientele.
"The construction on Highway 34 has not affected the store. We are a destination store. If people need to get to the store, they will find a way," she said.
"People will go around the construction to come to us."
Customers do not have to travel down Highway 34 to reach these businesses. Customers can bypass the construction by driving down Higginson Street.
"The end result is going to be great. We have to give a little to get a little," said Arnet.
A resident's perspective
Barbara Redmond, who lives on Highway 34 near Hillview Crescent, remembers the first day the construction began.
"I remember the first day construction started. I had gone to a doctor's appointment and when I came home, my 40-foot beautiful spruce tree had been removed from my lawn. Hydro told me they weren't going to remove the tree. I found out later it was the construction workers. They told me later that they had come to the house to ask permission but no one was home. They didn't start construction for another two weeks after that. I was in total shock," Redmond said.
"I called our mayor and he said they would plant a new tree. I am 81 years old, I'll never see the tree grow to what it used to be," she continued.
Apart from losing a beautiful tree, Redmond says that the construction hasn't been too bad.
"The traffic is always constant. Once one line goes through, another fills up. One day the traffic was backed up all the way to Anne's Chip stand," she said.
"The construction is noisy, dirty, and dusty all the time," she continued.
Redmond, her husband Pat and her son Patrick Redmond have been dealing with construction for three years now.
"There has been no break in construction. First they build the high school, then demolish the other, now it's this. We are going to have to wash the house again, no point in doing the windows though," she laughed.
The construction workers have been very nice and understanding to the residents of Highway, she noted.
"The workers are very nice. Very obliging," she said.
"They spent a full month in front of our house. It was a lot."
This Sunday, August 12, workers had come to each of the resident's houses to tell them that they were going to shut off water from 12 p.m. to midnight. However, the water was shut off at 8 a.m., four hours before the expected shut off. Apart from this one disturbance, Redmond said workers have been good with informing residents.
Redmond agrees that the construction is a good thing but wishes that they would extend the future sidewalk so it reaches Mike Dean's rather than stopping half way.
"I am so happy that a sidewalk is being installed. However, I wished it wasn't going to stop at the tennis court. I saw a mother walking back from Mike Dean's pushing a stroller on the highway while two other children were walking in the ditch so they would not get hit by traffic," she said.
"In the long run the construction is good. I'll be glad when all of this is finally finished."