Maria Guerrero

Fines Stack Up, Worry Sets In Over Unfinished Road Construction Project

Small business owners worry that a seemingly never-ending construction project is about to drive them out of business.

The project borders North Richland Hills and Watauga and runs along Rufe Snow Drive between Ridgetop Road and Mid-Cities Boulevard.

The contractor already faces a fine of more than $156,000 for not completing the project in time, and there's still several months of work to do.

At Mount Top Café, the lunch rush feels more like a lunch bust on a daily basis.

“No one’s here,” said owner Netra Pandey looking around at empty tables. “You see empty.”

Pandey is from Nepal and says opening a restaurant serving American food was his dream.

“I’m so sad. We can’t make business like this,” he said.

His dream is now dashed, he says, because of the construction that’s right outside of his restaurant.

“Customers don’t want to come,” said Pandey.

He has had to let some of his employees go.

The same worry extends farther down Rufe Snow Drive at Cream Rolls.

“Every day I open the door and close. We worry about what’s going to happen. How are we going to run the day and how are we going to bring customers due to the construction,” said owner Alex Gordon.

The project’s contractor, Kodiak Trenching and Boring began work to widen the road in May of 2016.

The project was supposed to be finished by last February.

Six months later, it is not yet completed.

It is now scheduled to be finished at the end of 2018.

“Our customers mostly complain or they don’t know the way to come in so they end up going back home,” said Gordon.

Kareem Lawton co-owns Campfire Grill Texas Kitchen next to Cream Rolls.

“It’s frustrating to me,” said Lawton. “I feed my family and this is how I feed my family with this business.”

Each day the project is not completed the contractor is fined $1,285.

“I think they underestimated what they were going to be able to do and how quickly they were going to be able to get it done,” said Lawton of the contractor.

The small business owners fear that by the time the barriers come down their signs will have already been taken down.

“Will we be able to keep our doors open,” wonders Lawton.

According to the city of North Richland Hills, 80-percent of the project is funded by TxDOT and 20-percent is coming from the city.

The city of North Richland Hills says 80-percent of the money that has been fined will go back to TxDOT.

Kodiak Trenching and Boring did not return calls for comment.

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