The buzz from John Montgomery’s hair clippers droned softly as he styled a customer’s hair at Ron’s Barbershop on a lazy Saturday afternoon and watched cars whiz by.
Outside on Northeast Fourth Avenue, vehicles backed up to a stop, then sped off fast when the traffic light changed. Cars maneuvered past road barricades and whizzed by a blinking sign outside the barbershop at 1220 NE Fourth Avenue.
A much-anticipated project to narrow Northeast Fourth Avenue/Wilton Drive from Sunrise Boulevard to Northeast 26th Street to two-lanes began this month. Montgomery wondered how the construction would affect his bottom line.
“It’s probably going to hurt our business,” said Montgomery, who gets a lot of walk-in customers every day. “I think it’s going to get really congested.”
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) began work on the project’s south end last week near Northeast 11th Street in Fort Lauderdale. The project, which will include 7-foot-wide bicycle lanes, will progress north to downtown Wilton Manors by late September.
“It’s a public safety measure to make Wilton Drive safer for both vehicles and pedestrians,” said Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick. “It will add six feet of width to the sidewalks on both sides. It’s a good thing. Wilton Drive now is really a pedestrian thoroughfare. There are a lot of businesses there and a two-lane thoroughfare is inconsistent with the current use.”
Ron’s Barbershop is set back from the road, tucked in the corner of a strip shopping center on the east side of Northeast Fourth Avenue. Montgomery worried that construction crews and congestion would deter customers by making access difficult. The barber shop employs 11 barbers.
“In a four-hour shift I probably do 15 haircuts. Everybody loves a $10 haircut,” Montgomery said. “You can’t get a $10 haircut anywhere.”
Montgomery figured the barbers would tough it out, one way or another.
Just to the north, Leatherwerks showroom manager Javier Cortez lauded the upcoming construction.
“It’s going to be better for us. Everybody uses Fourth Avenue as a cut-through from north of Sunrise Boulevard to just south of Northeast 26th Avenue. They are trying to avoid Sunrise Boulevard, Andrews Avenue and Federal Highway,” Cortez said. Leatherwerks is on the east side of the road at 1226 NE Fourth Avenue.
Leatherwerks salesman Ira Smith, who lives just blocks away, said the road barricades made it difficult to come to work because motorists won’t let other drivers merge where the lanes narrow from two into one.
“Honestly, it’s not affecting business yet but people hate it because no drivers will let you in,” Smith said.
The road reconfiguration is expected to take about a year. After completion, the landscape/streetscape phase of the project will commence.
The construction and landscaping phases can’t be done simultaneously because state rules don’t permit two phases of the same project to occur at the same time.
The state of Florida and the Metropolitan Planning Organization are paying for the approximate $5-6 million project. The city of Wilton Manors will pay for the streetscaping in downtown Wilton Manors.
“We have been supporting this for years we have been talking about doing it for a long time,” Resnick said.