Cambridge business owners feel the pinch

JEREMY SMITH
Last updated 13:33 12/02/2014
cambridge, bridge repairs
FAIRFAX NZ

Running to time: Work on the bridge’s footpaths is on schedule. Much of the work is being done at night when the bridge is fully closed.

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Business owners on Cambridge's lower Victoria St fear losing thousands of dollars a week and some have even raised the prospect of closure due to work being carried out on the town's high level bridge.

Long queues of traffic have been common since Victoria Bridge, linking both sides of the town, was partially closed for a four month repair project.

The bridge has been open only to vehicles travelling from Cambridge to Leamington. Robert Harris Cafe owner Debbie Trickett said the situation for affected businesses was serious.

"If this goes on for four months we will struggle. My estimates are that I will lose thousands of dollars a week and that's the difference between keeping the doors open and closing.

"We've just survived a recession and now this. In four months this will close us down. I've worked too hard in this industry to see it all slip away."

Tricia Hodges runs Cambridge Gas Alley with her husband Brian. She said they were in a similar position, and also stood to lose a "significant amount".

"There has been a sizeable drop in customers, we're dead as a dodo at the moment. We've still got to pay wages, power, all our overheads and when you're not getting the turnover that's tough."

But the closure was having spin-offs on the other side of the river.

Richard Jacobsen who runs Leamington Freshchoice said there had been an "extra surge in business", some of which could be attributed to the closure of the bridge.

"I was really worried about the bridge closure because about a third of our customers are from the Cambridge side of town. I thought we might lose as much, or more, than we could pick up but it appears that a lot of our Cambridge customers are making the effort to come across anyway and more locals are giving us a try to avoid the crossing."

Council's road corridor manager Dawn Inglis acknowledged the "significant" traffic issues in Cambridge and said the council was actively considering the option of changing the direction of traffic flow during the day.

"That's what most people seem to want. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just putting out a couple of traffic cones or installing lights. I wish it was - everybody would be a lot happier."

It would cost $100,000 to change the direction of flow due to the cost of signage and additional traffic control for the rest of the project.

Ms Inglis thanked Cambridge commuters who were car-pooling, staggering work start times and walking their children to school.

"We're hopeful that as more of those changes are made, the traffic situation will become far more tolerable. Closing the bridge was always going to cause issues but I absolutely agree that the early delays were unacceptable."

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