Community

Drivers and businesses frustrated by lengthy work on Merced’s R Street

Detour signs send drivers away from R Street where it crosses the BNSF rail line on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Work that was supposed to be complete on Feb. 17 has dragged into March.
Detour signs send drivers away from R Street where it crosses the BNSF rail line on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Work that was supposed to be complete on Feb. 17 has dragged into March. tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

The railroad crossing at Merced’s R Street has been closed nearly three times as long as originally planned, an inconvenience and a damper on business, residents and business folks say.

Workers were replacing asphalt on Thursday, and were expected to be done by the end of the day, according to officials. But, BNSF has pushed back the reopening two other times.

The uncertainty adds to the inconvenience, according to Christy Terrazas, who lives on West 25th Street, where much of the traffic from R Street is diverted.

“That’s the most frustrating part, not knowing when they’ll be done, and all the extra traffic,” the 44-year-old said Thursday.

The traffic headed south on R Street, a major thoroughfare for central Merced, is diverted to 25th Street and drivers can cross the railroad tracks at U or M streets. Terrazas said that has increased the number of people speeding in front of her house.

“I’ve been honked at and had people riding up my bumper,” she said.

That’s the most frustrating part, not knowing when they’ll be done, and all the extra traffic.

Christy Terrazas, 44, of Merced

Then there’s the added inconvenience of taking two of her grandchildren to Fremont Elementary, which abuts R Street, or getting to shops near Main and R streets.

The track on R Street closed on Feb. 10, and was supposed to be open seven days later, officials said. Then it was supposed to open late Wednesday, but remained closed Thursday.

Business may be hampered by fewer cars headed up or down R Street. There’s been a noticeable change at Sonic Drive-In on R and 18th streets, according to manager Bee Vang.

He said sales in February were down by about 5 percent compared to the same time last year. The fast-food business relies on impulse buyers passing by, particularly during the 2 to 5 p.m. “happy hour,” when drinks are half off, he said.

“I usually get really busy when school gets out,” he said.

The past couple of weeks have lagged with fewer cars passing by, he said.

I usually get really busy when school gets out.

Bee Vang, manager of Sonic Drive-In

Driving around the blocked road is enough to make a shopper think twice about making a “quick trip,” said Chad Xiong, a 22-year-old Mercedian who was headed into Applegate Park Zoo. “Honestly, it has been” inconvenient to have R Street closed, he said.

Zoo volunteers said attendance has not been hurt by the closure, and a few park-goers also said the inconvenience was worth the wait to have safer tracks.

The storms that pummeled California last month flooded the asphalt company that contracts with BNSF, which was the cause for the delay, according to contractor Jamie O’Shea, who is overseeing the work on the tracks.

The R Street crossing was set to open by the end of Thursday, she said, adding that work at Glen Avenue and Tower Road is supposed to be complete on Friday. “That’s the hope anyway,” she said.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

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