The West Debbie Lane construction started this month but detours, a cut phone line and lack of signage have already affected sales in that area, business owners say.
Randy Hasten, owner of Uncle Bo’s Hamburgers & Deli, said he couldn’t make payroll on a recent Saturday when the main entrance to the shopping center was closed. Before construction, there were days where he’d make $1,000 or more. Now he’s lucky if he gets six customers during the lunch rush and brings in $200.
"How am I supposed to feed my family? I depend on my customers. They’re going to go somewhere else because they can’t even get in here," Hasten said. "Small businesses are the backbone of every town. Without them, you don’t have anything except your big chains."
The family-owned business has 11 employees and has been in business for eight years.
The $5.1 million project to widen Debbie Lane from F.M. 157 to North Main Street started in early July and will take about a year to complete, said Belinda Willis, director of communications and marketing for the city of Mansfield.
The massive overhaul will reconstruct West Debbie Lane from a five-lane asphalt road to a six-lane thoroughfare with a center median. Workers closed the old westbound lanes this month, moving traffic over to the old eastbound lanes.
"Access to business is considered and very much a concern when we’re doing a road project," Willis said. "The location of temporary driveways are placed in the plan."
But the job has already had complications.
Workers were putting in a temporary entrance to the Quik Trip and strip center where Uncle Bo’s and several other businesses are located when they accidentally cut a telecommunication line that wasn’t marked properly, Willis said. They had to leave the hole open so AT&T could repair the broken line over the weekend, closing the main entrance to the businesses.
"We had an unusual situation that kept that particular driveway closed," Willis said.
That meant Uncle Bo’s and other businesses had no phone, Internet or cable television in addition to the main access point being blocked.
"You were handtied," Hasten said. "I stayed open and took cash and wrote tickets on paper."
A few doors down, Lucy’s Donuts had to close on a Sunday because the majority of customers want to pay with a credit card.
"That’s usually their busiest day," said Sunny Kang, who spoke on behalf of her sister who has owned the shop for two years. "They are worried when it’s going to be finished. They are little bit stressed about that."
The lack of signage has also been a concern for the business owners. Hasten raised the issue to the City Council and met with city staff but he said more needs to be done.
Workers did put up a sign on July 17 after the temporary drive opened that directs drivers to the Quik Trip and other businesses.
Hasten said the sign isn’t facing the right way and doesn’t do enough to tell drivers passing by that the stores are open.
"They’re 11 yards off the road and they’re not even facing the direction traffic is going," Hasten said. "You can’t even see the signs until you turn in the parking lot."
Construction signs for temporary drives have to follow safety rules.
"We can’t put too much info on it because it becomes a hazard if people stop to read," Willis said. "You want people to be able to see the information quickly."
Hasten also questioned why the city couldn’t put signs on Russell Lane and F.M. 157 telling people to take the back way to Uncle Bo’s. He’s created his own detour map that he posted on Facebook to direct drivers to his business. Hasten said he and fellow business owners could even pay for a sign there.
The city has no plans to put in additional signage on Russell Lane, Willis said.
"I think people in mansfield know about russell lane and the access," she said.