With road-widening work on Ulmerton Road to begin Tuesday, some Largo businesses fear construction will scare customers away.
Others hope loyal customers will pedal through the anticipated traffic and construction.
Maher Khalifeh, manager of the BP gas station at the northwest corner of Ulmerton and Ridge roads, thinks it will be disastrous. “They’re going to kill us. People going to the beach are going to change their route. They won’t come this way,” he said.
Khalifeh even told his boss they should take a year off.
Construction on the mile-and-a-half stretch between 119th Street and the Seminole Bypass Canal won’t be finished in a year, though.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, work is not scheduled to be complete until November 2013, more than two years after its start date. When complete, the $16 million improvement project will leave Ulmerton Road with six lanes on the entire stretch. It will also replace several existing signals with hurricane-resistant traffic lights and add several turn lanes at major intersections.
East of the BP, the Mattress One store on Ulmerton Road has been open since May. The manager there isn’t too worried. “Business is ridiculously slow,” Tori Freilinger said. “The widening could be a good thing.”
Next door, manager Karen Victorio also felt optimistic. “I don’t think it will hurt us. We’re a specialty store and the only one (Casual Male XL) in the county,” she said. “We get a lot of new faces. We’ve also had a loyal following. They find us on the Internet, too.”
A few doors west on the same side of Ulmerton, Goodyear store manager Randy Smith wondered about access to the business during construction.
Goodyear's service manager Mark Gray said the construction could add to what he says is an already confusing entry point.
“It’s hard enough for people to get here now. They pull into and try to get into " from our parking lot, he said.
In response to concerns from businesses, a Department of Transportation official said brochures detailing the construction work were mailed to affected businesses this week.
“We have one way in and one way out. If it will be blocked, we’ll be at a standstill,” Smith said. “They’ve got to be able to accommodate us."