BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Its 11:15 a.m. on a weekday and there are too many empty booths at the Mocha House in Boardman. Of the dozen or so customers who are in the restaurant, several said that ongoing construction and traffic congestion at the Interstate 680 and Route 224 interchange is enough to keep them away.
“From time to time we have occasion to go to Poland from Austintown and we find it just inconvenient and time-consuming, so we just avoid going that direction,” said John Hanson.
Next door at Classic Bakery, customer Brenda Adair said if it weren’t for the pastry, she wouldn’t come to route 224 at all.
“I live on the west side, and I only come here to get a Danish for my father once a week or my sister, and I’ll get off the freeway and go back on it. I don’t travel down 224,” said Brenda Adair.
This is the second summer for the overpass project. But now in addition to backups along Route 224, other potential detour routes around the congestion are undergoing construction making things worse.
“They started on Western Reserve and now 680 and Mathews Road. There for a while they were working on Midlothian, so this whole area’s been affected,” said Rose Rovnak.
The mess provided at least some inspiration at the Inner Circle on Route 224. Manager Kelly Wolford said the restaurant has recently started offering what workers call “ODOT specials.”
“Just to let them know we really appreciate their business, and they go through quite an inconvenience just to come here,” Wolford said.
The lunch and dinner time crowds are still lacking and that is causing a ripple effect on the staff.
“Obviously, the servers and the bartenders are a little bit slower and then that cuts back on the kitchen because we don’t need as much help,” Wolford said. “It affects the whole bottom line.”
While customers look for ways to avoid the congestion, ODOT officials confirmed the Route 224 project is still on track to be finished by the beginning of November.