MOUNT VERNON — Even though traffic on Gay Street has been switched over to the west side of the street, truck drivers are still feeling the headaches from road closures over the past week.
John Hester, Norwalk, maneuvered his 48-foot trailer north on Main Street on Monday because Gay Street was closed. He was trying to make his way from the industrial park to United Precast Inc. on Howard Street. Hester then followed High Street east to McKenzie Street, the route he was told to take by United Precast.
“Someone called the company I work for and said I was driving in an unsafe manner on a no thru-truck street,” Hester said. “I have an over 25,000-hour safe driving award and now I’ve been written up.”
Hester, a driver for R&L Carriers, has been driving a truck for 21 years, with 14 years on the Mount Vernon route where he makes 10 to 12 stops in Mount Vernon and Fredericktown.
“I know the streets of Mount Vernon pretty well,” Hester said. “I don’t like using side streets but I knew there was no way to get [to UPI] other than McKenzie Street. I just don’t think the complaint was called for.”
Neither does city safety-service director Dave Glass.
“He really was written up for this? Is there anything we can do about it?” Glass asked when Hester’s frustration was explained. “We can certainly make a phone call on his behalf.”
Even with instructions from the customer and knowing how to navigate the streets of Mount Vernon, Hester said the journey was nerve racking.
“I had to make a wide turn onto McKenzie so I had to wait for traffic to ease [heading west on High Street] to make the turn,” Hester, who easily navigated the turn, said. “I just don’t think the complaint was called for.”
When city officials met earlier this spring to discuss potential problems with those involved in the Gay Street improvement project, the use of McKenzie Street by truck traffic was discussed. The result was the city would send out a letter to residents expressing the need for businesses like United Precast Inc., Ellis Bros. and delivery carriers to use McKenzie Street throughout the project.
“We have a couple of residents who have been frustrated with the whole process,” said Glass. “There is no other route for trucks to take and it is an inconvenience for residents, but we continue to ask them to be patient.”
Hester worries about the possibility of more complaints, as the project is expected to take up much of the summer.
“I know Gay Street needed fixed but I don’t want to get another complaint when I’m just doing my job the only way I can,” Hester said. “These companies need their freight so we have to find a way to get it to them.”
Debby Ruffner, owner of Shamrock Plastics, also receives and ships deliveries with Hester.
“I know some of the truck drivers aren’t happy,” Ruffner said. “We typically get two to five trucks a day. We will even have drivers call and say they are stuck in traffic.”
Glass said Gay Street construction is running on schedule, if not ahead of schedule, and will be wrapped up by the beginning of August.