CENTREVILLE — Jean Fabi, Queen Anne’s County Economic Development manager, presented the results of a Department of Economic and Tourism Development study outlining the traffic impact on businesses to county commissioners Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Through the use of Survey Monkey, the department gauged the response of business owners from Aug. 29 to Sept. 27. The eight-question survey sought to measure the impact of traffic from Memorial Day to Labor Day with a total of 115 responses from Chester, Stevensville, Queenstown, Sudlersville, Centreville and Chestertown.
“We had a meeting this week with Gov. (Larry) Hogan’s chief of staff and much of the discussion was the impact on businesses,” said County Commissioner Jim Moran. “We have a good groups of commissioners covering every angle of the issues, and that went into our beach-to-bridge plan 16 months ago to give us some control. We’re still pushing and fighting for that plan.”
The market sectors which responded included service, retail, food, hotel and “other” services, which includes taverns and attractions, recreation, real estate, nonprofit, manufacturing, veterinary and farm.
According to the survey, 45 percent of respondents said traffic was a major problem; 40 percent said it was a moderate issue; an estimated 11 percent said traffic was a minor concern; and 4 percent said it was not a factor.
When asked about the impact on sales during the designated times covered by survey, 57 percent said traffic had a negative impact; 29 percent said it had little or no impact.
“We want to be part of the solution, but we’re just as baffled by it as anyone else. We want to know how on Oct. 20, we could have a 15-mile backup westbound,” Moran said.
An estimated 14 percent of respondents said traffic had a positive impact on sales.
As to the specific impacts, respondents noted clients were unable to get to businesses, employees arrived late due to backups. Peak times also meant fewer customers and employees had adjusted schedules to account for high traffic times.
Aside from impacts on sales and client relations, 68 respondents expanded on their answers saying that sheriff’s deputies at exits delay and deter customers to business locations, traffic scares customers away, and entire areas are blacklisted as tourist destinations.
As to how employees are impacted by traffic, 44 percent of respondents said they were affected moderately, while 35 percent categorized it as “significant” in their business. An additional 21 percent called it “minor or having no impact” on employees.
“We were pleased with the responses since we heard from businesses and individuals, and they were mostly service businesses,” Fabi said.
Finally, businesses elaborated on how bridge construction and lane closures affected their business. They said there has been additional investment in technology to have meetings over the internet. More drastically, some businesses have cut the number of staff during times where, traditionally, additional staff has been required.
Shipments to businesses have also been changed to account for traffic backups with little relief in sight.