By Kiet Do

HALF MOON BAY (KPIX 5) – Business owners in Half Moon Bay are criticizing PG&E over the decision to begin infrastructure upgrades along Highway 92, leading to massive weekday backups and negatively affecting holiday shopping traffic and sales.

The roadway shutdowns by PG&E contractors began December 6, and will continue through December 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday, and located in the area approximately 1.5 miles east of Half Moon Bay, near Lemos Farms.

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PG&E Spokesperson Mayra Tostado said the company is “upgrading high pressure regulators that bring down the pressure from transmission lines to distribution lines”.

The community received no warning about the closures, until the start of work on Monday morning. The drive from into Half Moon Bay, which typically takes about 30 minutes during normal weekday traffic, in many instances took 60 to 90 minutes or more with the closures.

Vehicles bound for Half Moon Bay stuck on westbound Highway 92 due to PG&E work, December 8, 2021. (CBS)

Vehicles bound for Half Moon Bay stuck on westbound Highway 92 due to PG&E work, December 8, 2021. (CBS)

“It’s just frustrating!” said Breanna Charles, the social media manager at P. Cottontail & Co. Children’s Boutique.

The boutique was caught off guard by the sudden closures, as employees arrived to work two hours late. Workers lost out on valuable time to fulfill and ship online orders, as customers were left waiting outside. Charles said some grew impatient and left.

“When I was pulling around the corner, I saw someone peeking through and I’m like ‘Aah! Wait! We’re coming!’” Charles told KPIX 5.

At La Petit Baleen Swim School, parents who must travel over the hill have canceled their classes for the next several weeks.

“We have about 50% of our kids showing up, some of our classes are not even showing up at all. So it’s been very quiet,” said instructor Maria Economopoulos. “It’s been a big impact.”

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Unpredictable travel times over Highway 92 have forced Half Moon Bay Feed & Fuel to cut product deliveries of hay and chicken feed in half.

Employees spend several hours of their shift waiting in traffic and burning diesel fuel, where prices are at historic highs. What’s more, delivery drivers for incoming shipments to the store are opting not to make the trek through the gridlock, leaving some shelves bare and reduced inventory.

At Fog Town Toys, owner Lisa Cresson said there’s been a considerable drop in foot traffic. Sales this year so far are down 20% to 30%, compared to 2020, which had already seen steep declines because of the pandemic.

“For me, specifically a toy store at Christmas time, this is the worst time to cut off access to my business,” said Cresson. “Why does it have to happen now? And since there’s been no communication, we can’t empathize with PG&E. We just feel frustrated as business owners who, like I said, are still trying to claw our way back from the pandemic.”

In response to a KPIX 5 inquiry about shifting the work to nighttime hours, a spokesperson at PG&E emailed:

“The remaining work requires us to be simultaneously in Caltrans right-of-way and in our customer’s yards to complete the service work right up against their houses, which cannot be done at night.

“In addition, the resources needed to activate the new equipment that will be used next week on 12/14, 12/16, and 12/20 are only available during the day and we cannot flip flop our crews from days to nights without a proper rest period for safety reasons.

“We’ve taken actions to limit the number of worksites open at a given time to reduce congestion, only one at a time, and placed advanced warning message boards on either side of the project to warn the community of potential delays.

“We apologize for the inconvenience. We are currently on track to finish work by December 23.”

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“I had to do a song and dance that was unbelievable to keep my business open last year,” said Cresson. “And now this.”