DANIA BEACH, Fla. – Business owners in South Broward County are not happy about the way motorists leaving Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport will be directed away from their cities when the new runway expansion project is complete.
"I'm horrified," said Carol Grampa, owner of Grampa's Bakery in Dania Beach.
She thought there'd be light at the end of the construction tunnel, but just realized that when the dust settles on the billion-dollar airport project, the ramp that connected the terminal to southbound U.S. 1 won't be rebuilt.
"We get so many tourists here and they don't understand, we've lost so much business here. And now to lose business forever, I can't even imagine," Grampa said.
Ever since airport officials closed the ramp, drivers headed to South Broward County have had to go north on U.S. 1, then make a U-turn to come back south. Business owners and city leaders in Dania Beach and Hollywood fear their communities will be cut off from all the new economic opportunities this new runway promises to bring.
[RELATED: Hotel demolished to make way for new FLL runway]
"This is very devastating, this could really hurt us," said Hollywood City Commissioner Patricia Asseff at a recent commission meeting. "How do people get to our beach? They have to go around once they get out of the airport and they see "Go to Fort Lauderdale," or they get on Interstate 95, they're not coming here."
A spokesman for the airport explains there's no room to build a ramp directly connecting the terminal with southbound U.S. 1, but he said motorists will still be able to get to Dania Beach and Hollywood in a roundabout way.
Drivers will be directed to the east side of the new runway, on Taylor Road, which winds around to the intersection of Griffin Road and U.S.1. From there, South Broward County is just a left turn away.
"We're taking you on a new road back there that basically was a two-lane road," said airport spokesman Greg Meyer. Now we've widened it, we've put new asphalt down, new lighting. It'll be a nice, streamlined way and it will also help reduce backup into the terminal area."
Grampa said she feels like somebody pulled a fast one and said suddenly that light at the end of the tunnel doesn't seem so bright.
"It's hard enough for locals to figure it out, and we read the signs and know what lane to be in. But tourists? I don't think so," she said.
Airport officials said there will be plenty of signage and drivers will have ample time to figure out how to get onto southbound U.S. 1.