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Route 11 closure irks Adams business owners affected by detoured traffic


ADAMS — Business owners are worried they will lose customers during a culvert replacement project that is expected to keep a stretch of Route 11 closed until September.

Detour signs went up Monday morning advising northbound and southbound drivers to hop on Interstate 81 to avoid a quarter-mile section between Michaels Road and Spook Hill Road, where a culvert will be replaced at the Hart Brook bridge. The construction zone is between Adams Center and Adams; the detour steers traffic to routes 177 and 178 to and from I-81.

Drivers can still get to businesses beyond the detour signs until they reach the section being repaired, which is closed to all traffic. But merchants fear customers now won’t go out of their way to shop.

One business already affected is Behling’s Spookhill Farms store at 12139 Route 11, near the intersection of Michaels Road. The produce stand, an Adams Center fixture, is only a short drive beyond the southbound detour sign, where only local traffic may pass. But owner Michael W. Behling already noticed business slowing Monday.

“The road didn’t actually close until about a half hour ago,” he said Monday afternoon. “But this morning workers put the detour signs up, and it’s been dead.”

Most customers at the produce stand are local residents who make a habit of stopping by because it’s convenient, Mr. Behling said. But he predicted many Adams residents who commute to Watertown now will take I-81 on their way home from work. Driving to the produce stand would require those customers to backtrack, which he fears the after-work crowd won’t be willing to do.

“I think the local people in Adams will continue to come,” he said. “But if they’re coming in from Watertown, they’re probably just going to stay on I-81. Normally they would stop by to get some apples or sweet corn if they’re passing on Route 11, but it will now take a big effort. I think the after-work crowd is going to be the toughest.”

Unlike some other proprietors affected by the closure, though, Mr. Behling said he is willing to put up with the inconvenience of slower business so the project can get done. The Jefferson County legislator, who represents the town of Adams, said he has listened to business owners complain about construction work numerous times as an elected official.

“It’s just one of those things that happens,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I guess it’s now my turn as a business owner.”

The cluster of businesses on the other side of the work zone, south of Michael Road, also will share the pain of lost traffic. Among them are Fuccillo’s Auto Mall, Tops Friendly Supermarkets, Subway, Ace Hardware and Stewart’s Shop.

McDermott’s Midtown Deli, directly across from Fuccillo’s at 10412 Route 11, captures much of its business from northbound traffic, owner Robin S. McDermott said. But she expects lunchtime traffic to slow down during August because of the project. She contended that DOT should have kept one lane open where the culvert is being replaced.

“There’s no doubt this will affect our bottom line here,” Ms. McDermott said. “The answer is anyone who’s coming north from Mannsville or Pulaski isn’t going to get off I-81, and the ones going south are going to do the same thing.”

She continued, “It usually takes eight minutes to make deliveries to customers on Route 11 in Watertown Center, but it’s now going to take me a half-hour.”

Jeffrey S. Pratt, general manager of the Ace Hardware store at 10799 Route 11, said using the I-81 detour is going to cost the store more time and money to deliver inventory.

“I don’t know how many people from Adams are working in Watertown that won’t come in,” but there will be some, he said.

Traffic at Stewart’s Shop, however, is expected to get a boost from the closure, manager Michelle R. Duffy said. She said many of the store’s customers who live in Adams will fill up their gas tanks there before they commute on I-81 to Watertown, because of the Route 11 closure.

“I’ve had a lot of my customers say they’re going to fill up here in the morning, so hopefully we’ll get more business out of this. It’s their first stop before they get on I-81.”

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