By CYNTHIA KMETT
To say the widening of Dequindre from Long Lake to Burningbush Drive along the Troy/Sterling Heights border has taken longer than expected would be an understatement.
Having put up with being closed and cut off from customers while sewers went in the fall of 2017, and the amount of work it takes to add three new lanes of traffic, it doesn’t look likely the project will meet the proposed deadline of “late fall 2018.”
For Krist Yasso, owner of Manny’s Liquor at the corner of Square Lake and Dequindre, the past 35 years have been an adventure – and not always a great one.
“This is the worst thing I’ve seen in my years in business,” he says with a sigh.
Not only did he sometimes find his back parking lot blocked with construction equipment stored on the lot west of his store (which he owns), but customers got lost finding any Dequindre business entrances.
And, despite noting that sales are down 30 percent this year, Yasso says, “We have great customers because they make they make the effort to get here.” That could be because he has what is surely one of the largest collections of liquors from around the world, and their Chester’s Chicken, whose ingredients are all from the South, will make you stop breading your own bird — it’s that good. And, if you make an order for an event, Manny’s will deliver it to you.
Manny’s also has another store up in downtown Rochester at 723 Main Street, just a block north of University.
Across the street at the 7-Eleven, the owner had to put up his own signs showing where the entrance is located while construction is ongoing. The store was literally barricaded by the construction on Square Lake east of Dequindre.
And in Gabriel Plaza, Yasso notes that the Middle Eastern restaurant has gone under twice this year and was sold for a discounted price. While the name hasn’t changed, he points out it’s now an Indian eatery.
Gabriel Imported Foods, however, says his customers are still coming, primarily because he carries so many foods they love and can’t buy anywhere else. During the worst of it on the west side of the road, they’d park on the east side and walk over.
But on Dequindre, “all the stores are suffering,” Yasso stresses.
Kevin Hartig, owner of Innovative Ear and Hearing at 43184 Dequindre, Suite 204 would agree. “It’s been very disruptive,” he admits. He observed that when the “lockout” started, the entrances on the east side of Dequindre were just dirt. “They were holding our egress to the street hostage.”
Recently, however, someone (probably Oakland County Road Commission) came out and filled them with gravel.
“How long will our customers want to put up with this inconvenience?” Hartig wonders.
Besides, people in the dozen businesses in the two buildings on his side of Dequindre have to spend 20 minutes in the car to go to lunch, as there’s nowhere close to eat. Even getting out on the road is hard, as one car can block traffic in both directions as it tries to enter the traffic flow.
One big reason that the project might not be done before the snow arrives, is because the contractor, Dan’s Excavating, stopped work on September 4. It seems that the operating engineers, members of Local 324 and the Michigan Infrastructure Transportation Association, which represents the contractors, have not been able to reach agreement on a new contract. The old 5-year contract expired in May 2018.
UPDATE: In a news release dated September 27, Governor Rick Snyder announced that an agreement was reached in which the contractors and union would continue working without a contract through the 2018 construction season.
The Dequindre project cost is $16.5 million, funded mostly by federal funding, RCOC, Macomb County Department of Roads, Troy and Sterling Heights. It will widen the road from two lanes to five lanes. The reconstructed road will include two through lanes in each direction and a continuous center left-turn lane and right-turn lanes at major intersections. There will also be new concrete curbs, traffic signals, and ADA compliant crossings.