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OUR VIEWS

Road improvements take time — and patience

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Road Street north and south of the intersection with Main Street is blocked in downtown Elizabeth City.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Elizabeth City residents, business owners and patrons in the last 25 years have experienced a fairly long and continuous history of traffic-impeding downtown renovations. All have resulted in complaints about delays, traffic detours and lost business.

At the same time, it seems that all of the traffic-snarling work zones and delays were also preceded by complaints of one sort of another about poor road conditions, old infrastructure or the need to put a better face on the city. Complaints, it seems, have been a driving force for the projects aimed at improving downtown conditions.

Last week's complaint-driven update on the months-old Road Street project in the downtown is the latest in a line of street work to get the attention of residents and businesses.

The work includes repairs or replacement of the sub-surface utilities infrastructure as well as a finished paving job to smooth the way for motorists on the normally well-traveled route. It's been in the works for months — actually years, considering the planning and fund-finding components that allowed for the work.

But as it turns out, the associated upheavals, claims of lost business, inconvenience to patrons caused by closing the road and re-routing traffic, and the predictable murmurs and grumbling are now turning up the heat to get it finished. Patience please.

It is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that residents and businesses have to put up with the turmoil and disruption of street or infrastructure work in the city. In fact, the current project will probably be among the more brief of street inconveniences to affect the downtown.

Many residents will recall the "StreetScape" project that, between 2003 and 2006, transformed the downtown. That work re-engineered the primary Main Street of our city. The objective was to create a more welcoming, picturesque and unique environment for business and patrons — which it did. It also closed most of the Main Street area for months, and in the process riled up more than a few citizens.

And who could forget the five-year, $62 million project completed in 2016 along Elizabeth Street that added a new causeway bridge, new lanes and traffic patterns from Water Street to Road Street and a massive street and infrastructure renovation on downtown's northern quadrant fronting Elizabeth Street? There were many complaints about that project — and some are still complaining.

Some may also remember the work-arounds and detours when Water Street went from a two-lane to a four-lane road. Talk about changing traffic patterns.

The takeaway from those experiences is that major projects, especially street and infrastructure work, on a municipal footprint that is well over 200 years old, can't be done without disrupting traffic patterns, business and people’s habits.

The upside, however, and what residents usually fall back on, is the purpose behind the work. The disruption is just part of the process of getting to the improvements. And in every case we’ve seen, that's what residents have gotten.

The work would not have been done without the expectation of better, safer roads, more pedestrian appeal, more business opportunities and an improved general environment.

Some complaining is inevitable. And granted, sometimes it actually does push a project forward. Sometimes contractors need a push.

We'd urge patience for workers and city staff as this important Road Street corridor is resurfaced for the betterment of our city — but, please hurry.

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