Slaters Lane detour shackles motorists

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The detour at the Monroe Avenue Bridge project in the north end of Alexandria is leaving businesses worried that their customers will bypass the area, finding it too difficult to navigate because Slaters Lane was partially closed and traffic detoured around the bridge intersection.

Starting on Friday, July 20, the intersection of Slaters Lane and Route 1 at the east side of the bridge was closed and traffic was diverted to go under the bridge, back on Route 1 south and around to a traffic light at First Street, where they would have to take a left to get back on Route 1 north. From the George Washington Parkway, motorists see signs and detour signs and this leads to the confusion.

Debbie Hildebrand, an employee of Rusticos Restaurant on Slaters Lane, was late to work the first day of the detour. Its a nightmare, she said.

Next door at Buzz Coffee Lounge, manager Lindsey Stewart wasnt too happy with the signs either, which initially said Slaters Lane was closed.

It didnt say detour. In bypassing, theyll end up on King Street where all our competition is, she said.

People cutting through from the Del Ray area, heading east across the bridge to the GW Parkway, used to stop at Buzz in the morning, but shes worried this wont happen anymore.

It was just kind of a lack of communications, Stewart said.

Next to the coffee shop, Fazilat Shrof at Tutto Bambini clothing store is worried about the upcoming busy season.

We can miss back to school, we have childrens clothing, she said.

The detour will be in place until November while Shirley Construction works on the new bridge and roadway, straightening out a curve and making it a smoother area for motorists. Relocating the existing athletic fields is also part of the plan. There are fields at the existing Eugene Simpson Stadium and of soccer fields in the Potomac Yards area. When the bridge project is completed, all the fields will be part of the stadium complex.

Pain and confusion
The first week, cars could be seen stopping in the middle of the road, looking at the signs and the intersection that was blocked off, and taking a left on Powhatan Street instead of following the detour. Schyler Petersen is a resident in the area and watched motorists. Youll see confused people, she said.

Kevin Hall, an official at Shirley, knows the growing pains associated with road projects. The first week, a detour is always a learning process, he said.

One of the problems was the map used to explain the detour with arrows looping around Slaters Lane and Route 1. Brian and Karen Fikes live right off Slaters Lane and saw the maps in local publications that were supplied by construction officials.

Others suggested a clearer explanation of the detour with individual business names on it to point out where they were on the map. Hall pointed to a big map of the project, saying, we couldnt point out every business, that wasnt the intended purpose, of the map. As far as some sort of clearer explanation, Im looking into that, Hall said.

The total price tag is $45 million and half of it is the price of the bridge, Hall said. The first bridge span is scheduled to open in November this year and the whole project is on track to be completed in the fall of 2008.

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