ORANGE COUNTY, Texas — As construction on an $11.4 million Texas Department of Transportation project nears completion, one Orange County business owner is struggling to hang on.
Construction on the swing bridge over Cow Bayou, between Bridge City and Orange, closed Roundbunch Road in March of 2017. Located at 2682 E. Roundbunch Road, right on the edge of the bridge, 'Peggy's on the Bayou' has had a hard time keeping their doors open over the past three years.
Peggy Albair opened the restaurant with her husband 20 years ago. Over the years, Albair said they've had their ups and downs, but nothing like what they've seen lately.
"If it continues like this, we may have to shut our place down," Albair said.
The couple has had to make a lot of changes. They've had to let go of staff, cut back their hours, and drop items form the menu, just to keep their doors open. Their lunch hour "rush," has turned into five people, max, sitting down for a meal. Their staff of 12 is now down to just her and her husband, and an occasional helper.
"You know, we're trying everything we can to keep it going," Albair said.
Albair said the new route to her restaurant adds an extra five minutes in the car. This makes it difficult for customers to come in on their lunch breaks. They find it difficult to compete with other, closer options, even in the evening.
It's discouraging for Albair. She said they were originally told it would be ready by Easter, then May, from May to June, and June to July. Three years later in mid-July, they're still holding on.
"I've cried a lot and worried a lot, because, you know, this is our livelihood, and if we can't make it, I don't know what we're going to do next," she said.
Orange County engineer Clark Slacum said they hoped to re-open the bridge by mid-July, but an electrical issue delayed the project. He said they're doing the fine tuning, and now hope for some time in August.
Slacum said the bridge is already open for boats to go through. They've replaced all the concrete components of the bridge, added new electronics and renovated the swing part of the bridge. Slacum said they're nearing completion, and will have it done by mid to late August at the latest.
As for Albair, she's just hoping people will join her in holding on a little longer. Albair loves her community. She's currently raising money for school supplies, and raised over $6,000 for 'Toys for Tots' over the Christmas season. As a people person, it's been difficult for her to not have anyone coming in.
"I would like to see this bridge open as soon as possible, and I would love for the people to come out, and just try us and see and support us," Albair said.