Editorial: Protecting businesses should be part of road work planning

  • A handwritten sign warns motorists leaving the Hawley Commons shopping center in Mundelein not to turn east onto Hawley Street.

    A handwritten sign warns motorists leaving the Hawley Commons shopping center in Mundelein not to turn east onto Hawley Street. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 5/20/2016 1:06 PM

With several Mundelein businesses struggling to attract customers during a major road construction project, the village has stepped in to help.

Officials recently unveiled two new detour routes around the Hawley Street project, more signs directing motorists and a campaign to promote businesses in and near the construction zone on the village's website and on social media.

 

Too bad it wasn't done before construction began four weeks ago instead of after the work was well under way. Better late than never, but the effort could have been so much more useful had it been part of the project's advance planning. That's a lesson not only for Mundelein but for all suburbs faced with road-repair needs along commercial corridors.

By its very nature, road construction causes headaches, and the Hawley Street reconstruction is no different. The two-year, $11.7 million project that will rebuild and widen a one-mile stretch of the road entered its most disruptive stage April 18. That's when the road was closed to eastbound traffic and drivers initially were directed to use a single detour route.The work should wrap up in the fall, when the focus will shift to the westbound lanes.

While such a project certainly is an inconvenience to motorists and nearby residents, it's a frightening financial hardship for the retail and service shops and restaurants in and near the work zone. What's at stake as they struggle with lack of access for customers are jobs, livelihoods and sales tax revenue.

Businesses like the Caboose Restaurant, Flowerama and Taco & Burrito Express say they've taken a hit since the road project began. For some, like Flowerama, it came at what is normally an important time of the year when they count on flower sales for prom and Mother's Day. Employee hours have been cut as sales have dropped.

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"(They) can't get to us," Caboose owner Brian Carmen told the Daily Herald's Russell Lissau. Carmen estimated his business has fallen 30 percent since the start of the work.

Shop owners say they expect business will rebound once a smooth and rebuilt Hawley Street debuts. The road was in bad shape before the work. But their immediate concern is surviving until then.

The village's plan to help includes an interactive map on its website that shows people exactly how to get to businesses in the construction zone.

A "shop local, shop Hawley" campaign also is under way. It's a message being shared on social media, on electronic signs at local schools and churches, in electronic newsletters and on the village website.

These are good ideas. Had they been up and running in the days before the first construction barrels were rolled into place on Hawley Street, it could have helped the businesses weather a tough period.

This is a lesson that should not be forgotten in Mundelein as elsewhere throughout the suburbs. Given the choice between proactively getting out in front of the issue or reactively scrambling to catch up, the former will be better for everyone.

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