BRANDON, Vt. (WCAX) Route 7 is a busy highway spanning the length of Vermont, but recent roadwork in Rutland County is creating a bottleneck that's causing headaches for some businesses and drivers.
Chef Robert Barral has owned Café Provence in Brandon which has been a staple in the town for over a dozen years. "I just made a clam chowder. We are going to serve it for lunch," Barral tells a visitor at the Café. "We celebrated our 14th anniversary on July 3rd."
But since construction started last year on the stretch of Route 7 that runs through Brandon, things have been different. "When people get stuck on one side of town for 15 to 20 minutes and get stuck again on the other side it's not encouraging to come," Barral said. Which means this chef is losing dough. "We are down for sure. I think it's in the 18 to 20 percent down. The cafe is more."
And he is not the only local business. Tricia Black says the book store she works at is also seeing fewer people. "Horribly -- yes, really very much so," she said. She blames the long traffic delays and worries about the long term impacts the loss of business could have. "People are just going to be so tired it's going to be a ghost town."
While some residents and commuters that go through Brandon are upset because of the traffic caused by the 1.5 mile construction, local officials says it will be worth it
"We are going to have the prettiest town in the state of Vermont when we are done," said Bernie Carr with the Brandon Chamber of Commerce. He says the close to a $30 million project involves upgrading the town's roads, walkways and basic infrastructure. The town is only paying 5 percent of the bill. The rest will be paid by federal aid. "It's been a significant project and a significant number of years getting ready for it."
Carr says the local businesses have stayed strong through the construction and he believes people will still make it down Route 7 when the construction is done. "There is a cost of doing business while this project is going on, but I think that they are willing to do that for the end result, which is a much more significant infrastructure upgrade and a much more beautiful downtown," he said.
The project is expected to be completed by 2019 and officials say it's currently on schedule. "There has been some complaints, but ultimately we are on schedule if not ahead," said Joseph Casella with Casella Construction.
A sweet thought for Chef Barral, who's hoping the neighborhood's new look will translate to some new customers. "We always keep in mind that at the end of the day will be beautiful little town," Barral said.