By Mike LaBella
---- — The state created problems for elderly and disabled people by eliminating on-street parking in front of businesses in Central Square, according to a resident and employees of one of the businesses.
The changes came as part of the state’s massive Route 125/South Main Street reconstruction project.
Bradford resident Claudette Ennis said that since the spaces were eliminated as part of a redesign of the square to improve traffic flow and safety, elderly people and those with disabilities are having a hard time finding places to park that are close to businesses along the west side of the square. Those businesses including Greg Foucault Appliances, the Village Square Restaurant, Recycling I.T. and Liberty Tax.
“They put in the lights and it’s horrible, and they also eliminated parking along South Main Street,” Ennis said about changes made by the state, which include traffic lights that slow down traffic in the square. “Seniors and people with disabilities have nowhere to park. They took the spaces away.
“I’ve been going to the Village Square Restaurant for breakfast years,” Ennis said. “Every since they started construction, it’s been difficult finding a place to park. There is a parking lot out back, but there usually aren’t enough spaces available. And some days they are doing road work so we can’t park there at all.”
She said the reconstruction project also took away parking spaces along South Main Street in front of the nearby Rite Aid store.
“You can’t park anywhere near the traffic lights in the square,” she said. “Many people I know have had issues with parking in this area.”
Central Square received a major facelift during the $13.1 million Route 125 reconstruction project, with the addition of traffic lights, islands to channel cars in new directions and wider sidewalks in some areas. The new lights replaced old ones, which had not been working for years. Eliminating about a half dozen or so spaces along South Main Street where several business are located was part of the project.
Ennis, 42, has a disability that limits her to short walks. Even though she has a disability placard for her car, it doesn’t help in finding a spot close to the restaurant or other businesses in that area, she said.
“They never had any designated handicap spots there, but you could still park there,” Ennis said.
This summer, Greg Foucault, owner of Greg Foucault Appliances at 113 S. Main St., said his sales were down since the state began rebuilding Central Square last year. He said a combination of heavy traffic resulting from the new traffic lights, continuing construction, and a loss of parking spaces contributed to a loss of business.
Iva Dionne, a cook at the Village Square Restaurant at 109 S. Main St., said road work continues to plague the area and is negatively affecting business.
“It’s been horrible,” Dionne said. “Customers tell us they drive by for breakfast and there’s no place to park, so they don’t stop.”
She said some of her younger customers have been parking across the street in the Rite Aid lot, resulting in complaints from that store.
“We have signs for parking out back, but many days they are working on the street and no one can get into the lot,” Dionne said of work related to the Route 125 project. “They were replacing a transformer on Sunday morning and we couldn’t open until 9 a.m.
“It’s an ongoing problem and because business is down, our waitresses are losing a lot in tips,” she said.
“The mayor came in a few weeks ago and he said he was going to meet with engineers and construction people to see if we can get spaces back out front,” Dionne said. “Then we called him and he said it couldn’t be done. We have disabled and elderly and it’s not making it any easier on them as they can’t walk very far. We have to let them through the back door or else we’ll lose them, too. The frustrating part of it is, there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do.’’
Dionne said businesses in Central Square are bracing for more traffic problems.
“We’ve been told they are going to do street paving soon,” she said. “It will be a nightmare.”
Elimination of parking spaces in front of Central Square businesses
New traffic lights that cause backups in and around the square
Businesses losing sales due to the hassles