Dixfield businesses struggle with bridge construction

DIXFIELD — As construction on the Webb River Bridge moves toward its fall completion date, local businesses are struggling to overcome 14 months of traffic backups that have kept customers at home.

Greg Kwasnik/Sun Journal

Construction of the new Webb River Bridge has caused traffic delays in downtown Dixfield for the past 14 months. The project is slated for completion later this fall. 

Construction on the new $2.8 million bridge began in May 2011, and in the months since has regularly caused lengthy traffic backups along Route 2. Although those backups have lessened in recent weeks, businesses owners in downtown Dixfield say frustrated customers now avoid the area altogether.

From his hot dog stand at the intersection of Main and Weld streets, Doug Swan has watched the traffic backups for months. Swan, who has sold hot dogs in the same spot for 16 years, said the recent construction has taken a big bite out of his business.

“It’s slowed our business down,” Swan said. “We don’t do a great big business, but it’s put it into me pretty bad.”

Businesses that cater to lunchtime customers seem to be most affected by the construction.

At the Front Porch Cafe on Hall Hill Road, business has tumbled 75 percent since construction began, owner Sammie Angel said.

“Why would anybody go through that hassle, no knowing how long it’s going to take them?” Angel said, referring to the long traffic backups. “After they’ve sat in the line for half an hour or 45 minutes, they’ve already spent their lunch money in the gas tank.”

At least one business has closed its doors for the duration of construction. Brenda Skidgell, owner of the Blue Moose convenience store, closed up shop last November after business fell by more than 50 percent.

“Most of my business during the day was from a couple of the mills around here for lunches and breaks,” Skidgell said. “They just didn’t have time to wait for 15 minutes to get in and out of the yard. Traffic was just awful.”

Skidgell said she hopes to reopen when the bridge reopens, but is still waiting for construction to wind down. “Right now I don’t know when they’re going to be done,” Skidgell said. “I just don’t have any idea if I’m going to be able to (reopen) or not.”

According to a Maine Department of Transportation construction timeline, all traffic should be shifted to the new bridge by the end of September; the temporary bridge will be removed by Nov. 7. The project is under contract to the firm of A.J. Coleman and Son Inc. of North Conway, N.H.

With construction nearing its scheduled completion date and lengthy traffic backups mostly over, business owners are trying to lure customers back to town. The "Destination Dixfield" campaign, created by the Dixfield Economic Development Council, has begun reaching out to the public through advertisements and special incentives.

Norine Clarke, a member of the EDC who has seen business slow at her own Dixfield shop, Log Cabin Craftworks, said the new bridge and associated sidewalk should help local businesses once the project ends.

“In the long run it should be an improvement, but during the construction it’s very painful,” Clarke said.

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Comments

Norman Mitchell's picture

Constuction Jobs

Is there anyone local working on this project I thought construction jobs where good for Dixfield thats what big wind tells us why would a store that sells food right on the job site close didn't the crew want to shop there ?? Did they hire any locals or did they bring their crew with them like all construction company's usually do !!!

Its not all construction!

I do agree construction has affected some of the local businesses BUT not what Front Porch claims. They have been getting complaints for the past year or so about their slow service and high prices. We have stopped going because of both of thoes reasons. The food is pretty good but we ALWAYS have a long wait for simple food and the prices are terriable! $50 for breakfast for 3 people is WAY too expensive. I would be surprised if they stay open much longer. We dont bring our business there anymore, we dont want to waste our time or money.

ANTHONY NAZAR's picture

Good luck folks

Wilton's retail businesses were wiped out in the late 70's when the town was ripped up to put in a sewer system. There were several weeks when my store in East Wilton was basically isolated by perpetual (and illegally left open) ditches and heavy equipment parked where it found itself at the end of the workday.

Downtown Wilton remains a shadow of what it had been just a few years earlier. While I realize the Rte 2 bypass had a huge effect - that sewer project and its impossible to find project engineer delivered the coup de grace.

Norman Mitchell's picture

Wilton

What happened was Wilton got taken off the main drag ! but go out on rt 2 and see what got built up there on the new main drag in Wilton !!! Dixfield is still on the main drag so your not even close to the same subject

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