Driven to distraction

It happens every summer: You pack your family in the car to head for the beach, or hit the highway to start a vacation, or decide to visit one of the region's many attractions, when OH NO! - orange traffic cones appear on the shoulder, flashing lights warn of construction ahead and you're stuck in a monumental jam.

Unfortunately, the height of travel season coincides with optimal road and bridge repair conditions - yet the aggravating delays always seem like a slap in the face to those who have slogged through the winter, eagerly anticipating a carefree getaway.

Here in southeastern Connecticut, construction projects are angering not just motorists, but merchants and mariners.

Shopkeepers in downtown Mystic are particularly fed up with the ongoing streetscape project on West Main Street on the Groton side of the river, and have implored officials to halt work during the tourist season.

Long delays caused by lane closures have kept customers from visiting Mystic, or made it difficult to find parking places, the merchants complain.

In one of the region's other popular destinations, Niantic, big boat owners are beside themselves because Amtrak says it needs to close the new Niantic River Bridge for 48 hours in July for adjustments.

The good news, at least, is those whose boats require less than 16 feet of vertical clearance won't be affected, but charter fishing vessels will have to stay high and dry when equipment to raise the new span is moved half an inch to accommodate an unanticipated shift.

On Interstate 95, much of the repair work is being done at night, but in virtually every town crews are busy filling in potholes, repaving roads and replacing storm drains, and it's impractical to expect all that work to take place after dark.

We sympathize with all those inconvenienced by construction but remind people that in the end it's necessary. Mystic will be even more attractive once the work is finished. The Niantic Bridge will open and close more efficiently. Cars will hit fewer potholes.

We'd be complaining just as bitterly if that work were neglected.

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