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French Street reopened to traffic last week, months after the city closed a portion of the road for repairs. Several affected residents said it was not a moment too soon.
For those who live on French Street, construction delays and a work stoppage left them frustrated and inconvenienced, though most interviewed said the project was necessary to make the road safer.
The city closed the road in September to make drainage and curb repairs and expected work to be completed by November. However, a delay in construction hampered the project and winter weather kept crews from laying a base coat on the road, City Engineer Scott Reynolds said.
Rising temperatures allowed crews to put down the base coat this week, and the road was reopened to traffic Wednesday.
French Street resident Charles Lanz said he understood the reasons for closing the road, but was angered by the spells of inactivity.
“The main problem I have with them is they wasted so much time and a beautiful fall,” he said.
Lanz said September and October, in particular, were perfect for construction, and for months on end, the delays forced many residents to drive as much as a mile-and-a-half out of their way to get to Mulberry Street.
“It’s been a terrible inconvenience,” he said.
Lanz welcomed the reopening and said it will help to remove any confusion about what parts of the road are accessible.
“It’s been a pain for a lot of people,” he said.
Dawn Powell, who lives in Indian Hills subdivision, said her family has been inconvenienced by the alternate route which takes more time, but she said the closure did have some positives. She did not miss the heavy 8 a.m. traffic rush, and the road closure made it safer for pets, she said.
Repairs to a curb also should reduce the number of wrecks, she added. During rains, motorists routinely slid off the curb and crashed, she said.
Yet, like Lanz, she scrutinized the construction delays and felt the city was lackadaisical in adhering to a solid deadline.
“Obviously they don’t have a good timetable,” she said.
Powell also does not expect the drainage repairs to fix flooding problems she and her neighbors face during heavy rains. Powell said her back yard has been flooded numerous times, forcing her and her husband to place a $10,000 system in their home to ensure the family room and other parts of the home are not destroyed.
The area, she said, is in need of new infrastructure underground.
“We need new piping up here, but it’s not going to happen,” she said.
Bill Armer, another French Street resident, said he has called the area home for about 20 years and welcomed the quiet the road closure brought. Armer said heavy traffic on the road has caused problems when he and his wife tried to pull into or out of their driveway. They sometimes were greeted by heavy-handed car horns and cursing.
“I’m sure there are some people in this city who would disagree with me to their dying breath,” Armer said with a chuckle.
Despite the reduced traffic, Armer noted the inconvenience the extended closure put on motorists. In the past, he said, he could “zip over” to Pear Orchard Road or Ring Road, which was nullified by the removal of French Street as a driving option.
Yet Armer said the drainage improvements may make the inconvenience worth it. His house repeatedly has flooded during heavy rains, and he has had as much as 4 feet of water in his basement during years in which flooding ripped the city.
“The damage in such a short period of time was just unreal,” he said.
Robert Wright said the closure was an inconvenience, but one he could live with.
“It hasn’t been all that bad,” he said.
Wright said the repairs were needed and he hopes they make the road less prone to crashes.
“The curb was the main thing,” Wright said. “There were head-on collisions there. I’ve been here around 16 years and have seen a number of accidents.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.