Roadwork, closed McDonald’s, dampen tree sale business

By on December 23, 2014

Dale Hartraft’s Christmas tree sales operation hasn’t changed in the last 15 years.

At his usual spot at the northern corner of the Cloister Shopping Center, Hartraft’s beaming smile, warm handshake, Junianta county pines, and candy cane treats for the kids remain a staple.

The only thing missing is the usual traffic coming off Route 272.ER Christmas Tree Bridge Project 3

“It’s the worst it’s been in five years,” Hartraft said Saturday.

Gone is the “constant” traffic from the once busy McDonald’s which has been shuttered since a June 2 fire caused extensive damage, said Hartraft, who worked the tree stand as his 81-year-old mother waited for customers inside a warm trailer on the site.

“I was told that the owners wanted to move the McDonald’s to this side of the parking lot, but that may have changed,” Hartraft said. “Nothing has been done on the site in quite a while though.”

Another possible problem, Hartraft noted, is the torn up road directly in front of his stand at the intersection of Routes 272 and 322.

Traffic patterns changed last month when workers completed phase one of PennDOT’s North Reading Road deck repair project on the bridge there.

The project includes ripping out the old deck and repairing underneath the bridge. That work is on schedule to be completed by mid-April, said Jennifer Leibig, PennDOT transportation construction manager.

“Work left is required underneath the beam and the bridge will need to be jacked up a bit,” Leibig said.

Once that project is finished, including painting the beam, look for work to begin on another bridge down the road. Work is almost ready to go on the bridge at 405 S. Reading Road by the Ephrata wastewater treatment plant, she said.

“That’s why we’re continuing to work through the winter (on North Reading Road) so there’s no negative impact on running two projects at once,” Leibig said.

The entire bridge will be replaced on South Reading Road. PennDOT on Nov. 22 put the project out for bids. Those bids, expected to be assigned by Jan. 15, include replacing the existing bridge structure, minor approach work, a water-line relocation and other miscellaneous construction.

As for work on the McDonald’s project, Ephrata Borough officials thought the owners would begin in the last few months.

But Robert Thompson, Ephrata Borough manager, said plans have yet to been finalized by franchisees Bill and Joanne Brown and their daughter Kristen Fraser.

“The last plans we saw rebuilds the restaurant at its current location,” Thompson said. “(The owners) submitted an application for the November zoning hearing board and then requested that it be continued to the January meeting.”

Thompson expects the Browns to present their application at the January zoning board hearing.

“That of course is subject to change,”Thompson said.

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