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Businesses deal with Route 46 road construction

A mess of cones in Austintown

Construction at the corner of Mahoning Avenue and State Route 46 in Austintown has been causing fluctuating traffic patterns that limit access to some businesses in the area. Staff photo by Allie Vugrincic

AUSTINTOWN — A $700,000 Ohio Department of Transportation project at the intersection of state Route 46 and Mahoning Avenue is causing fluctuating traffic problems, making access to some businesses near the intersection difficult.

Stacy Teski, manager of Austintown Belleria, said they have started adding 15 to 20 minutes to delivery orders to accommodate with the “traffic roulette” and construction that regularly leaves one lane open on Mahoning Avenue. She said the persistent Ohio Department of Transportation orange barrels sometimes make it look like it’s impossible to pull into Belleria’s parking lot, potentially deterring customers from coming to the business.

“People come in and complain a lot that they can’t get in or out of the business,” said Belleria employee Cheryl Aurilio. She said customers often ask if they can cut through the back of the parking lot to reach state Route 46, but there is no outlet.

The construction project includes adding an eastbound right turn lane on Mahoning Avenue and a northbound right-turn lane on state Route 46, according to an ODOT document distributed to area businesses. Also, the speed limit on Mahoning Avenue west of 46 is being reduced to 35 mph.

“The endgame is supposed to be better but the right-now game sucks,” Teski said. “They should have thought of something a little more efficient for the businesses.”

The restaurant has been under new ownership since May, Teski said. She said she worries the traffic problems are causing the restaurant to lose traction with its customers.

“Traffic should not be our problem,” Teski said.

Next door at Crystal Vase Florist, employee Jenn Hartzel said the construction hasn’t affected the bottom line, but has caused annoyance to customers who sometimes can’t turn left out of the parking lot. She said Mahoning Avenue tends to be one lane in the morning, and is opened up to full traffic later in the day.

She said she hopes proposed ODOT “signal improvements” include making the intersection where the next-door plaza lets out onto Mahoning Avenue safer.

Crystal Vase owner Jamie Sprague said she isn’t sure if the traffic has deterred customers from coming in.

Just across the county line in Mineral Ridge, construction on another part of state Route 46 has been wreaking havoc on business at Pho Viez, said owners Joel and Penny Johnson. The pair estimated they’ve lost 60 percent of their business since a $1.4 million ODOT road widening project began in June.

The Johnsons, who have owned Pho Viez since January 2018, have had to lay off three employees and have cut back other employee’s hours to accommodate for the loss of customers. They were planning to open a pizza restaurant in the next storefront over, but had to put those plans on hold when business declined.

“We were building very well, then everything tumbled all at once,” said Joel Johnson. He said now they have to build back up from the bottom.

The restaurant’s travel traffic from the highway dropped from around 600 people last summer to about 100 this summer, Joel Johnson said. Penny Johnson said at times both entrances to their plaza were closed or blocked by construction, causing customers to call and ask how to get to the restaurant.

“This is the livelihood of businesses,” said Joel Johnson, “When construction messes with that, they should compensate somehow.”

The projects are expected to wrap up sometime next month.