Businesses plead for mercy on debilitating street rebuild

(Madeleine Wright, WPRI-TV)

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — A string of merchants on Broadway in Newport are asking the city to put a project’s construction on hold for the height of the tourist season — because the rebuilding is killing their business.

“The Broadway merchants have become very frustrated,” said Mary Wall, co-owner of Ben’s Chili Dogs. “We’ve felt the project has been protracted; it’s gone on too long.”

Construction on Broadway’s upgrades is on hold for the winter, and will resume in March. The $5.8 million “Streetscape Improvement Project” includes new lighting, benches, statues, wider sidewalks and elevated crosswalks, between Farewell Street and Bliss Road.

“On any given day, there would already be traffic detours blocking businesses, and parking spots would be taken up by construction vehicles,” said Wall.

Business owners are asking the city to suspend construction on the busy thoroughfare — a main road into the city — for July, August and September — when the city’s folk and jazz festivals, among other major local events, are held.

City councilwoman Lynn Ceglie said Tuesday she wasn’t sure if the suspension would be possible: “Everything is on the table. We really don’t know.”

Ceglie said she expects to know in a few weeks.

Business owners are pushing the city for better communication on the times and dates for construction. Ceglie said the city is working on that.

The project — with the intent of making Broadway more beautiful — has been in the works since before 2010, with some parts starting in 2012. It’s now expected to be finally complete by 2017, Ceglie said.

“It has cost not only my own business, but every business on Broadway — We couldn’t even tally it; it has to be almost a million dollars at this point,” said Wall.

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