Lake County businesses concerned over lengthy road construction delay

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Some Lake County merchants say a $16 million highway construction project might put them out of business.

The project began two years ago, but now, the Florida Department of Transportation says the completion date will be delayed by 250 days.

The state is widening U.S. Route 441 from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, in Leesburg, to Lake Ella Road, in Lady Lake.

Christine Greenaway opened her restaurant along U.S. 441 in Fruitland Park in April. But she says sometimes, she wishes she hadn't.

"Hindsight, if I had known that this wouldn't be done until spring of 2014, I probably wouldn't have bought the business," said Greenaway.

Greenaway said she is frustrated by the 250-day delay to finish the 3-mile highway widening project.

The project was supposed to be finished next month.

Greenaway said that for her, the project has moved far too slowly. She said FDOT was very quick to post the delay.

A sign about the project has been there since day one. Only the completion date has changed.

FDOT officials said part of the project had to be redesigned to eliminate road height differences that could trigger flooding.

Some customers of the businesses along the route said the construction can be so frustrating that they sometimes won't bother to go to those shops.

"I'm sure it happens a lot, because I don't like it either," said customer Richard Hardiman.

Hardiman said he has narrowly avoided accidents in the construction zone.

"It's like a nightmare. It's terrible," said Hardiman.

Greenaway is worried that the delay could force her out of business. She's upset with the state.

"How many engineers looked at this and didn't see it? Several grants, state grants, county, city, all these people, and no one caught it?" said Greenaway.

FDOT officials said the contractor is not to blame, and the contractor actually informed the state that there was a problem with the road's designs.

Officials said they will work to find out where the errors were made.