Open for business

Brittany Marrazzo, owner of Paws in Paradise, has been able to survive the closing of Bowman Road for the past seven months. She opened her business just two weeks before the road was closed to replace a bridge over Shem Creek. (Brad Nettles/ 10/1/12

MOUNT PLEASANT — After nearly six months, Brittany Marrazzo finally saw more of the drive-by traffic she anticipated on Bowman Road when she opened “Paws In Paradise” near Johnnie Dodds Boulevard.

The change for the better happened about 4:30 p.m. Monday when the long-closed Shem Creek bridge on Bowman reopened after construction of a 90-foot span.

“I’m quite happy,” she said. “It will be more convenient for people to drop the dog off.”

Two of four lanes on the new structure were given the OK for traffic. The other two will open in the spring.

Marrazzo launched her dog day care and grooming business two weeks after the bridge closed for replacement in mid-April. She had already signed a lease when she found out about the Bowman work that would cut her off from the busy boulevard.

As the weeks passed, traffic past her place slowed to a trickle.

“I couldn’t believe they closed a major road like this for that amount of time. It’s been inconvenient. People had trouble getting here,” she said.

In a difficult situation, she could only afford to pay employees and the rent. “I haven’t made any profit,” she said.

Derek Huff, owner of electronics repair firm Protronics, said his 20-year-old business was affected, but he relied on loyal customers who made the effort to find him.

“The main thing has been trying to get people here. It’s been very frustrating,” Huff said.

His business remained fairly steady despite Bowman being blocked and what he described as a confusing detour route.

Scott Shealy, retail manager for Atkinson Pools & Spas, said the Bowman bridge closing hit during the peak pool sales season and sharply reduced drive-by traffic. Business was affected, he said, and he saw people confused about how to get where they wanted to go.

“I wish I had a nickel for everyone who turned around in this parking lot,” he said.

He recalled a person with swelling and hives trying to get to nearby Nason Medical Center on the other side of the bridge who stopped to ask for directions.

The bridge work is part of the Johnnie Dodds Boulevard Project to widen about three miles of U.S. Highway 17 from the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Interstate 526. Johnnie Dodds will be widened from two to three lanes in both north and south directions. Curbs and gutters will be constructed along the entire length of the project. Frontage roads will be widened to provide one lane in each direction with four-foot-wide, marked bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

The project, due for completion in the spring, also includes a Bowman Road overpass which has already been built. Traffic signal upgrades and pedestrian crosswalks will be constructed at Magrath Darby Boulevard, Mathis Ferry Road, Houston-Northcutt Boulevard, Shelmore Boulevard and Anna Knapp Boulevard.