Will Blenheim businesses bleed?

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roadwork

A group of Blenheim area business owners and local politicians met with provincial staff recently to discuss plans to rebuild the Highway 40 overpass at the 401.

Adam Vandermey, chair of the Blenheim BIA, said the locals met with Ministry of Transportation personnel at the Blenheim Golf Club, with about 35 people in attendance.

“The folks from the MTO went through the whole plan as to the research they’ve done,” he said.

The MTO plans to rebuild the overpass in the next couple of years.

Vandermey said Blenheim businesses have huge worries, considering Hwy. 40 will be closed at the 401 for nearly a year.

“The biggest concern from the BIA is that’s an artery that’s going to be cut off. The potential loss of business to small businesses is significant,” he said. “We have to figure out how to improve other infrastructure or prepare a proper marketing plan to let the rest of Chatham-Kent know Blenheim isn’t closed for 10 months.”

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He added the provincial personnel have open ears.

“They’re prepared to listen to our concerns and to our dreamed-up solutions,” Vandermey said.

One of those ideas is to have the MTO pave Horton Line from Hwy. 40/Communication Road to Charing Cross Road, providing easy access to Duke’s Harley Davidson and RM Classic Cars.

Another issue that will require a solution is the path of trash haulers that come from Toronto daily to dump garbage at the Ridge Landfill. Vandermey thinks the shortest route could send the heavy trucks right through Blenheim.

“The detour routes will be set out, but the MTO can’t actually police that,” he said. “If I were the operator of a garbage truck, I’d follow the shortest route, and the GPS shows the shortest route is to get off at Kent Bridge Road and come right through Blenheim.”

A possible solution would be for the MTO to pave Burk Line from Kent Bridge Road to Hwy. 40/Communication Road.

Maximizing access between Chatham and Blenheim, as well as between Blenheim and the 401, while the overpass is rebuilt is crucial to helping businesses to survive, Vandermey said.

“We have the concern a small shop that is heavily dependent on Chatham business could be in trouble. Many of the businesses in the BIA don’t operate on massive margins. Even to take a 30-40% dip in business for 10 months could be catastrophic.”

By airing their concerns to MTO personnel before any construction begins, BIA members are hopeful a compromise can be worked out. Vandermey said by reaching out to the MTO in the planning stages of the project, the MTO can react to potential problems.

“Over the next 10 months, we’ll put our heads together and come up with potential challengers and work on solutions to them, and see what flies,” Vandermey said.

Christine Costa, a project engineer with the MTO, said the meeting with the Blenheim BIA went well, and the MTO looks forward to working with the group to look for “ways to minimize potential disruption to their business.”

Costa added ministry staff was aware of business worries over the lengthy bridge closure, but described the meeting as a “valuable opportunity to increase everyone’s understanding of the project,” as well as concerns.

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