Utility crews are making major upgrades in downtown Staunton, from drainage pipes underground to power lines high above. But the improvements are bringing some short-term hassles, including traffic detours and lost parking.
Downtown Staunton is in the middle of the most construction upheaval it's seen since the "Big Dig" in the 1990s. But that project was a city-coordinated effort with intensive planning to keep business and property owners informed along the way. This time, it's a series of mostly unrelated work zones.
Staunton city crews have torn up a major downtown intersection as they replace storm-sewer lines to help prevent flooding on Beverley Street. At the same time, Dominion Virginia Power and Columbia Gas are making major upgrades downtown. And next week part of Augusta Street will shut down so crews can install power and communication lines for a new bookstore.
"Unfortunately a lot of these projects just happened to all coincide at the same time," said Tom Sliwoski with Staunton Public Works. "There are some traffic disruptions, some detours. We do ask that motorists be vigilant, be cautious and be courteous."
Staunton Downtown Director Julie Markowitz works with business owners to make sure they know what's coming and, in turn, spread the word to shoppers.
"It is an inconvenience for the merchants," Markowitz said. "It's also an inconvenience for our customers. It can really affect your business if people can't conveniently get to your storefront."
The city points out that the short-term pain will lead to long-term gain. All of the construction is a sign of millions in investment and more reliable service for utility customers.
"It's an unfortunate side effect of making improvements to downtown, but all of those things are done because they're necessary," Markowitz said.
The natural gas and stormwater work should be done before the heart of the holiday shopping season, and electric crews will soon be moving on to other parts of the city.
Downtown Staunton shrugs off the traffic headaches Friday night for the annual "Sparkles and Sweets" event. It'll include live music and dance, open houses and sweet treats at nearly 30 businesses. It runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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