With construction of the GRTC Pulse bus rapid transit line still ongoing, business owners gathered Wednesday to vent their frustrations with the prolonged disruption along Broad Street.
More than 50 business owners turned out to the meeting, which was held at The Broadberry venue on West Broad Street and organized by 2nd District Councilwoman Kimberly Gray.
Gray has proposed compensating the businesses who say the construction along the 7.6-mile route between Willow Lawn and Rocketts Landing has deterred customers from coming to the area and cut into their bottom line.
“Even though people still know we’re open to business, there’s still a lot of people who won’t come down here because of the traffic impacts,” Gray said.
City and GRTC officials originally said the project would be completed last October, but now say work will continue into the spring. The agreement with Lane Construction requires the project to be completed by June 30.
Mariya Boykova, owner of 68 Home at 5 W. Broad St., said the frequent parking restrictions have made it difficult for customers to get to her shop. The elimination of a loading zone — the shop sells furniture — has also made operating at the location difficult, she said.
“Customers are getting tickets constantly,” Boykova said. “I can’t run my business because I have to load and unload every single day.”
Scott Garnett, owner of Lift Coffee Shop and Café at 218 W. Broad, said the lack of parking has resulted in losses for many eateries. While Garnett said he supports Gray’s effort, he added that recouping the money lost at this point would be impossible.
“It’s not a money grab,” Garnett said. “You’re not going to be able to reimburse the losses that some of these businesses have taken.”
Gray introduced the proposal in November. She originally suggested paying the businesses by using about $3 million in incentives budgeted for the contractor if it completed work on the bus line before the end of 2017.
Then-Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne dismissed Gray’s plan, saying the incentive funds were off-limits and that if the city wanted to support the establishments, it could do so out of its own budget.
At Wednesday’s meeting, business owners zeroed in on a different source: more than $700,000 in operating funds the council allocated to GRTC for the bus line this fiscal year.
Carrie Rose Pace, a GRTC spokeswoman, said a portion of the funds had already been spent on hiring and training bus drivers, but did not specify how much.
Gray said she would seek to redirect the remaining funds for microloans for the businesses and seek other city funding if that doesn’t pan out.
“I’ll leave no stone unturned,” Gray said.
The council’s Finance and Economic Standing committee continued Gray’s proposal at its meeting last week, at her request. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 15.