A Pacific tire shop owner said changes to sidewalks are hurting his business.
Eric Bratch expanded Phil’s Tire Shop from St. Louis to Pacific in February. He said when he started looking at the building at 2802 W. Osage St., near Pacific High School, in 2019, it had “a normal driveway with a smooth incline.”
But before he took over the former Bo’s Autorama property, the Missouri Department of Transportation made changes to the sidewalk, which runs through the driveway, to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Now the sidewalk crosses the driveway in an “up, flat, up” design, which Bratch said causes recreational vehicles or trucks with trailers to drag when they cross as they enter the location. “And when they go out, it catches,” he said.
Bratch said since he opened the business in February, RVs and landscapers with trailers appear to be making up a large part of his business. But he’s had several drivers tell him they won’t come back until the driveway is fixed.
“We do quick fixes, with no appointment, in and out in 30 to 35 minutes,” he said. “That was going to be a major part of my business. Once they find out they are going to drag, they won’t want to come back.”
Bratch called MoDOT, which sent a representative who said Bratch could appeal, he said. Bratch said that, on appeal, MoDOT told him the sidewalk was a problem but ammended that when they learned Bratch wasn’t the property owner when the upgrades were made.
“They looked at it three times and said, ‘Did you buy the building after we did the changes?’ ” Bratch said. “ ‘Well, then we don’t care.’ ”
Bratch said the one allowance MoDOT made was to allow him to pay to build a new entrance, but he said he can’t afford another $100,000.
The sidewalk improvements on West Osage Street were part of work completed in early 2020, said Stephen O’Connor, MoDOT’s area engineer for Franklin and Jefferson counties.
“It’s not clear that the Missouri taxpayers have a responsibility to reconstruct a driveway to accommodate these specific business needs. MoDOT is willing to consider a driveway permit request from the property owner if their needs for specific business accommodations are required.”
The ADA improvements on the project cost $350,000 and included paved drive approaches, new sidewalks, curb ramps, truncated domes and pedestrian signals, O’Connor said. They were part of a larger $16.4 million project to improve Interstate 44 from Highway 30 in St. Clair to the St. Louis County line.
Bratch said the decision makes no sense.
Bratch’s luck got worse Thursday, May 27, the day after The Missourian first visited, when an apparent lightning strike caused an electrical fire at Phil’s Tire Shop. Bratch said they lost power and were closed for most of a week before reopening Wednesday, June 2. He said ordering replacement parts takes longer than normal because of COVID-19.