Roadwork hurting Pemberton Boro shops, owners say

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It’s been four months since the county started work on the Hanover Street Bridge, but “it’s not at all what they said it would be” one Pemberton store owner says.

PEMBERTON BOROUGH — A Hanover Street store has seen its business drop by about half since the county started a nearby bridge replacement project, according to owner Barbara Lind.

The dramatic customer decline for Grist Mill Antiques Center began in June shortly after the county started a $6.1 million project that includes demolishing the existing Hanover Street Bridge and constructing a new 118-foot bridge over the north branch of the Rancocas Creek.

Previously, an estimated 12,500 vehicles crossed the bridge — and drove in front of the borough businesses — every day.

But since work began, drivers headed south on Hanover Street have been rerouted to make a left at Elizabeth Street, continue along Pemberton Browns Mills Road, make a right at the Pemberton Bypass and then a left back onto Hanover Street, also called County Route 616.

The county has erected three signs at the intersection of Hanover and Elizabeth streets: one large sign advertising the detour and two smaller signs advising drivers that local businesses remain open.

However, the local business signs are recessed and difficult to see and do not come close to what was promised by the county, according to Lind. In addition, the county did not place any information about Grist Mill Antiques on the south side of the bridge, Lind said.

“It’s not at all what they said it would be,” the business owner said. “There has to be signage on both sides of the bridge.”

Businesses impacted on the north side of the bridge include Cutting Edge Barber Shops, Escape Marine, Hammerhedz Cycle, and South Jersey Coin and Gold Exchange and on the south side include Clarks Canoe Rental and Creekside Glass and Mirror.

A sign south of the bridge lists Clarks, Creekside and the Good Will Fire Co. as local businesses and shows an arrow pointed in their direction.

Burlington County Spokesman Nicholas Gangemi said Creekside Glass and Mirror is the only business to request additional signage. Creekside told the county that a construction field office trailer was blocking the store’s sign, and in response, the county installed an additional sign on a barricade in front of the shop, according to Gangemi.

The county would consider adding signs for other businesses, Gangemi said.

“If contacted by a business, we would evaluate the request and install additional signage as applicable,” he said in an email. “For a road closure between intersections, we do not typically list the names of all businesses between the intersections on the signs as the lettering size gets very small.”

“Regarding lost business revenues due to road/bridge reconstruction,” Gangemi added, “the county does not make payments for this.”

For Grist Mill Antiques, which sits just feet from the Hanover Street Bridge, the project poses an additional issue. Construction work has blocked one of the store’s two entrances and construction crews frequently park in the remaining entrance, blocking entry to the store completely, according to Lind.

“They’ll park five or six vehicles in the driveway. When we call they move right away, but for maybe 15 or 20 minutes customers can’t get in at all,” Lind said.

The county project includes replacing the structurally deficient and functionally obsolete Hanover Street Bridge as well as the reconstruction of 900 feet of the nearby road.

The majority of the work is expected to be finished in December, at which point Hanover Road from Hampton Street to Elizabeth Street will reopen to through-traffic, according to the county.

However, additional work, including removal of steel pilings from the creek, is not expected to wrap up until July 2020, according to the county.

The existing Hanover Street steel truss bridge was built in 1932 and reconstructed in 1977.

In a 2017 structural evaluation appraisal, the bridge was given an “intolerable” rating and was marked as a high priority for replacement, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

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