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Elizabeth businesses expand despite traffic woes, road issues

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 5:51 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Lori Kolodziej of Mon River Arts shows Kim Thomas of FHG Creation Studios the front room of the new facility Kolodziej's organization will use in conjunction with the Grand Theatre across S. Second Avenue in downtown Elizabeth.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
FHG Creation Studios along Plum Street is one of the newest additions to Elizabeth's business district.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Normal traffic on Elizabeth's narrow downtown streets occasionally competes with heavier trucks that use those streets as a detour off the state-posted Elizabeth Bridge.

Downtown Elizabeth is a mix of good and bad news these days.

The bad news is continued congestion, both from local traffic and vehicles detoured off the Elizabeth Bridge because of state-posted weight limits — some of which get lost way beyond the corner of Second Avenue and Market Street where they're supposed to turn.

“The trucks are getting stuck where they can't possibly fit,” police Officer-in-Charge John Snelson said. “Once they get down on First Avenue it is easier for us to back them up to Market.”

The good news is an expansion in the cultural business. Mon River Arts announced late last month it is moving beyond the Grand Theatre to new space it is renting across S. Second Avenue.

“Our new space will provide us with rehearsal space, storage and the ability to house all of our production departments under one roof,” said Lori Kolodziej, owner of the Grand Theatre and executive director of Mon River Arts.

That rehearsal space will serve as a classroom for expanding programs for young people. Details about Mon River Arts programs are available at

“We have over 60 children in our program from all the surrounding communities,” Kolodziej said.

Meanwhile, a new shop around the corner and along Plum Street touts a variety of arts and crafts.

Chris and Kim Thomas opened FHG Creation Studios on Jan. 17.

“We offer classes in painting, stained glass, mosaics and scrapbooking,” Chris Thomas said. “We just received the OK from the building inspector to fire up our kilns so ceramics is coming soon. We're also available for private parties, specializing in birthday parties for kids and sip-n-swirl parties for adults.”

Kim Thomas, who married Chris 11 years ago, is expanding upon hobbies she's had for 20 years, including painting, stained glass, mosaics and scrapbooking. Details about the business are available at

“Kim and I are creating a mini-cultural district,” Kolodziej said when Thomas visited the new Mon River Arts space last week.

Kolodziej's role in that creation extends to her work as chairperson and entertainment coordinator for the “Sounds of Summer” concert series that fills up Plum Street the third Thursday of each month, starting June 19.

A hole on Plum Street was filled up with something else recently, cold patch after a gas company crew tore up part of the brick paving completed last year.

Meanwhile, police logs get filled at least a couple times each month with accidents involving parked cars in the business district.

Snelson said police have to deal with such destruction as the loss of sideview mirrors or other door damage that often are written up as hit-and-runs.

“Unfortunately, they are reported after the fact,” Snelson said. “Some people report it. I can only imagine how many don't report it.”

The officer-in-charge said it is sort of a combination of problems, including sometimes-inaccurate global positioning systems and drivers who think things may get better beyond the tight intersection of Second and Market.

The downtown streets are part of a detour posted by PennDOT after it put the Elizabeth Bridge off limits to trucks with more than 32 tons or combinations of over 40.

That detour takes traffic off Route 51 on the West Elizabeth side of the Elizabeth Bridge, sends it down Route 837 toward Clairton, then over the Clairton-Glassport Bridge, then returns it to downtown Elizabeth and Route 51 via Lincoln Boulevard.

The weight restrictions will remain in effect until repairs can be made to the Elizabeth Bridge. No date has been announced for when such repairs may take place.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or

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