East side businesses feel varying effects of bridge closure

Construction on the Chuckwa Creek bridge has severed First Street in Durant. Staff photo.

Driving the length of First Avenue in Durant has become more than just problematic this summer.

It simply can’t be done.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation closed the Chuckwa Creek bridge for construction on May 23. Built in 1937, the bridge was in need of rehabilitation and will be widened to allow room for walkers, as well.

The Durant/Bryan County Emergency Management reported that the expected completion date will be Aug. 17, 2017, according to ODOT.

The closure of the highly trafficked road is having varying degrees of impact on businesses on the east side of Durant, specifically on First Avenue itself.

Randy Sullivan, owner of Green Spray Food Center, said he believes it has had an effect on his business.

“It keeps our customers that are north of town from being able to easily come down North First Street and get to us,” Sullivan said. “So if they are having to go around the other way and come down Washington, then they are coming right by our competitors, so we kind of feel like that has softened our business.

“And it’s very obvious – there’s no traffic on First Street right now. It has really had a crippling effect on the business on the east side of Durant.”

On the south end of the street, the bridge closure seems to be more of an inconvenience than a financial concern, according to Peyton Boatner, who works with graphic design and customer service at The Sign Depot.

“It has affected some of our business, people coming from up north, such as Tishomingo, who come down,” Boatner said. “People coming from there usually turn off at the exit for Hwy 48. They call and ask for directions and in giving them directions, you have to kind of maneuver them around. It has made it harder on them, not just being able to drive through, because if you’re not from this area, you don’t know this area.”

Kent Springer, owner of K & D Customs, said he hasn’t been able to tell if there has been an effect.

“Really I thought it might, but thankfully it hasn’t,” Springer said. “It still seems to be as busy as it has been.

“I think it could help business in the future once it’s fixed.”

There are businesses north of the bridge work on First Avenue as well. Larry Hallmark, owner of S & L Collision Center, mentioned inconveniences.

“It hasn’t affected us that bad, other than when they cut our phone line and we were out from Thursday afternoon until Tuesday morning,” Hallmark said. “That was probably the biggest problem.

“Our business, as far as drive-bys or anything like that, it hasn’t affected me, because we’re a collision business and people have been driving around to come to us. So it hasn’t hurt our business any at all, but it’s really inconvenient having to drive around, or having to go downtown or to the parts store. It adds another 10 minutes to our drive.”

Hallmark did joke that there may be a positive in the interim before the work is completed.

“It has been easier to pull out into the street because there’s no traffic.”

With the completion date of the improved roadway still two months away, east side businesses will have to continue to adapt and make the best of it through the summer months.

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