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SUSSEX - Construction on Main Street is causing declining sales for some local businesses and heavy traffic delays, according to some village residents.

Administrator Jeremy Smith said the village has worked with the project contractor to change some of the traffic control methods that has caused some of the delays, but he said the backups will persist.

"There's been a few challenges with delays; they are always small in their duration, but it certainly affects the businesses and people living along there," Smith said. "I can't say we're not going to have any backups ever. When you do road construction, things slow down a bit, and it's particularly frustrating if you're trying to turn into the driveway of the business you're going to."

Smith said the village wants to help the businesses along Main Street as much as possible with this portion of construction by keeping the road open.

"We purposefully ensured Main Street was going to be open to traffic this year; last year, we closed it," Smith said. "In particular, we did this to help the businesses along the corridor because they saw quite a downturn. Now, at least traffic can get through to those businesses. We really did not want to close it two years in a row."

The portion of the road under construction is on Main Street, west of Maple Avenue to the Pauline Haass Library, and east of Silver Spring Drive to just west of Waukesha Avenue.

"By the end of June, we should be done on the western end, and then a bulk of our work will be on the eastern side of the project," Smith said. "When we're out of the western section of this project, the delays will be very different. Not any more convenient for the folks on the east side, but we're basically a month and a half away from being done in that section."

Local businesses see declining sales 

Sussex Country Floral Shoppe owner Laurie Ailey said the heavy traffic has made it difficult for customers to come into her lot and for deliveries to go out.

"Now we can't even get out of our driveway during rush hour because the congestion is so bad," Ailey said. "I don't have to worry about driving to work because I live right next door, so I walk home. If we have a delivery, we can't take out orders."

The November construction hit the flower shop hard during one of its peak sales opportunities.

"It was during homecoming week when all the kids were supposed to come in and pick up their corsages; that was really not fun," Ailey said. "The village won't talk to us about this."

Smith said the village does help address concerns about the construction by having regular meetings with businesses and residents.

"No one likes road construction; it's noisy, dusty, inconvenient to the traveling public, and impacts folks' income for businesses along the project," Smith said. "Main Street road projects are even more so and that is why the village, with this year’s project, is keeping traffic flowing through the corridor during construction. The best news is that we are ahead of schedule right now and on budget so the light at the end of the tunnel is only a few months away."

Now, with another big sales opportunity approaching for the flower shop — Mother's Day— Ailey is worried.

"There's nothing else we can do but cope with it," Ailey said. "We've lost business because of it, and I know that Piggly Wiggly next door lost lots of business, too."

Ta Da Salon owner Kathy Kalis said dust from the construction is just as bad as the traffic delays for her business.

"My biggest beef with the construction right now is they're using the vacant lot across the street to grind up all the old road, so even though our construction was done last year, we're having more dust than ever," Kalis said.

Kalis described a day this month when people were driving on a dirt patch, and some drivers bottomed out their cars on the dip in the road. She said it didn't look safe.

After this portion of the construction is completed, Kalis thinks the heavy traffic will always remain the same.

"The traffic will never clear up; we'll always have heavy traffic here during rush hour now because they've taken away our traffic light," Kalis said.

Sussex Inn owner Dave Fotti said his business hasn't experienced decline from the delays, but he knows others in the area have.

"Everyone has been talking about it in the community, but that's just the way it is," Fotti said.

It has been difficult to determine whether Sussex Outreach Services, located in the Sussex Civic Center, has seen any downturn in donations since the organization just moved into the area in the fall, said Executive Director Jennifer Waltz.

Smith said the village will continue to watch and monitor the traffic as construction progresses and address further significant backups as they may happen.

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