BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sundays have gotten a bit more religious since construction closed the road just down from the Princeton Pike Church of God.
Parishioners cope by saying an extra prayer as they travel time-consuming detours to and from church.
"It's a blessing in disguise," Cotton Smith said as he stood in the church's entrance before Sunday morning's service. Instead of fighting traffic and driving to a restaurant after church, he goes home. "I get to spend more time with my family."
Folks on neighboring streets were also looking for a blessing Sunday. They hoped everyone made it home in one piece.
"Geez! Another car just ran that stop sign. Didn't even look!" Pete Arno said, wincing at the sight. He stood in his driveway and carefully licked drips from a nut-covered ice cream bar.
Pete lives in Hamilton's Vista subdivision across the street from the Princeton Pike church. Since a nearby portion of Princeton Road closed earlier this month to make way for the $93 million Butler Regional Highway, the church's congregation is looking at one, maybe two years of Sundays cutting through the subdivision or taking long detours.
Everybody's travel time to and from church has doubled. And, the subdivision's once-quiet narrow streets have become noisy thoroughfares.
Disturbing the peace
From his front yard, Pete Arno watched the intersection where Michael Avenue meets Linda Lane. On Sunday, the streets' peace and quiet yielded to squealing tires and screeching brakes.
"Traffic is unreal," Pete said. "It's four times what it was before the street closed. During the day you don't dare back out of your driveway. Somebody will slam into you.
"At night, you can't watch TV with the windows open. So many cars go by you have to turn up the TV till it hurts your ears."
While watering his lawn, Cliff Duggins complained of "all those darned fools driving cars with boom boxes and loud mufflers." It's so noisy, Cliff and his wife, Virginia, rarely sit on their front porch. "We escape to the back yard," Cliff said, "where it's quiet."
Jim Phillips feels for everyone in the subdivision. He told me so after Sunday's services at the Princeton Pike church.
"Cars swarm on the streets of that subdivision like bees," he said, "I worry about the children playing in the front yards. If I lived there, I'd be so upset, I'd lose my religion every day." The doubling of drive-time for churchgoers is "an inconvenience," said Princeton Pike pastor the Rev. Sam Luke. "It's not something you stay awake nights worrying about. But the possibility of a child being hit by a speeding car is a worry."
Sunday afternoon, Denise Holderbach sat on her front porch, occasionally glancing down Michael Avenue to see neighborhood kids at play. Some children dodged the heat and messed around under shade trees. Others giggled as they ran through front-yard sprinklers.
"Everyone worries about the kids," she said. She knows the street is unsafe and overcrowded. Two neighbors lost side-view mirrors recently when their cars were sideswiped after being parked at the curb. "So, we don't park our cars on the street anymore," Denise said.
She also avoids darting across streets when she walks home from working at a nearby school. "Nobody wants to stop at crosswalks," she said. "They're in too big a hurry."
Denise is in a hurry, too. She knows work on the highway is set to take two years. But she hopes it "opens way ahead of schedule."
Dick Gentry, organist at the Princeton Pike church, shares her hopes. He's already tried of the increased time it takes him to get to the church for meetings and rehearsals. For him, "the year 2000 can't come soon enough."
Denise and her neighbors should think about joining forces with Dick Gentry and his church's congregation. Their positive thoughts just might help open a highway in advance and answer lots of prayers.
Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.