By Laura Steiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Construction cones surround a pair of matching square black and orange signs near the intersection of Main St, and Bronte. “Road closed,” one says across the bottom. The other features a line informing drivers that businesses are open, but warns “Local Traffic Only.”
The closures are to accommodate some work on the water mains along Bronte between Main St and Steeles Ave, as part of the reconstruction of the road in the Sixteen Mile Creek area north to Steeles. It’s another struggle for area businesses as they recover from the pandemic.
Hedi Nowak owns the Gallery Upstairs at the corner of Mill and Bronte. It’s a long-time Milton business selling art, and gift items as well as framing services. Long-time customers will find their way to her. She tried to get the business name added to the sign. “Two years ago I got them to put that the Gallery Upstairs is open,” she said. It’s shorter closure; now extended from March 5 until March 14, 2022. “So it’s not worth the fight,” Nowak said.
The Town of Milton says it’s been talking directly to area businesses and residents. “Signage has been installed to indicate that businesses are open, and to highlight access points,” Town of Milton Communications Advisor Tayjua Squire said in a statement.
The Gallery Upstairs has limited parking facing Bronte St.
At Aspire Climbing, it’s a slightly different story. “Over the last two years, we’ve been dealing with a pandemic. And that’s delayed most of the construction that’s taking place. We find that when we do have opportunities to be open during the pandemic, we’re also facing the struggles of traffic on this road because of road closures, and the impact it has on our business,” General Manager Joe Layno said.
It’s been hard to attract new customers. “When people see Road closed, they think the area is not accessible, and they just turn around. So that’s been tough for us,” he added.
The business is unable to get high-speed Internet because providers won’t connect the infrastructure for it while the roadwork is ongoing. “They can’t connect it to the road, because the construction is still there,” Layno explained. He estimates his business is down approximately 50%, over last year at the same time, but it’s impossible to tell how much of it is due to the pandemic vs. the road work.
The Town plans to add more active transportation options including bike lanes, sidewalk, and a pathway. Nowak views it as a positive. “People will be walking more,” she said. “In a year, or two years’ time, it will be better. But it is a struggle, because it’s been delayed for two years because of the pandemic,” Layno added.