By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
The first phase of the $3.9 million “big dig” in Mifflinburg is over as a reconstructed section of Route 45, or Chestnut Street, will reopen today, PennDOT announced.
That’s welcome news to downtown businesses, which are taking a hit because of the project, said Cherrie Ross, Mifflinburg’s Main Street manager.
“It seems hard to convince people that the businesses are open,” Ross and, “and they need attention, they’re hurting.”
Ross said one shop owner told her a customer asked to have something delivered because she assumed she couldn’t make it through Mifflinburg with the roads torn up; the roads in front of the shop were fine, Ross said.
“We update things, put stuff in the paper, and PennDOT has up signs for which roads to use,” Ross said. “This has been really, really hard on (the businesses), they need continued support.”
No sooner does the new road open from Eighth to Fifth streets, however, the project’s second phase starts, shutting down Fifth through Third streets, effective today.
Route 45 will be open to Third Street from the east end, and through Sixth Street from the west end, Mifflinburg Borough Manager Margaret Metzger said.
There was a five-day weather delay in the project, she said, and not all the sidewalk work in the first phase is finished. “They may have to flag traffic while that is completed,” she said.
Traffic will have access to Third Street but not Fifth Street from Route 45 during this phase, said Rick Mason, spokesman for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s district 3, which includes Union County.
Market Street will remain the car detour through town, Metzger said. For trucks, the detour now is Violet Road, near the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction, to Ridge Road to Route 304, which then intersects with Market Street.
Metzger urged motorists to be very careful on the detour routes and to pay attention, particularly to signs as some are covered temporarily to expedite traffic. “We’ve had some near misses” with the sign changes, she said, but those changes are necessary to keep traffic flowing.
“If you’re coming to Mifflinburg, allow a few extra minutes to navigate the detours,” Metzger said.
During the first phase, there were issues with drivers using Mifflinburg’s many alleys to get around and driving faster than they should.
“It’s difficult to anticipate the shortcuts people will take,” Mifflinburg Mayor David Cooney said. “But as people figured out the detour route and the safest ways for each their own to get around, it got better.”
Cooney urges everyone to continue being patient and drive cautiously through the borough.
Don E. Bower Inc. is the prime contractor on the three-phase project to reconstruct Route 45 from Eighth Street to Forest Hill Road, including the addition of ADA-compliant curb ramps, new sidewalks and curbs. The work is done three blocks at a time, PennDOT said.
The project began in April and is set to be done by Oct. 24.