ST. GEORGE — Despite the heavy, months-long construction project in progress along Bluff Street, local business owners and operators want customers to know they are still open. And perhaps more important, they hope people will be willing to brave the construction to support them.
The Bluff Street construction project, helmed by the Utah Department of Transportation, will widen the busy road between 100 South and Sunset Boulevard to three lanes in both directions and redesign the intersection at Sunset Boulevard. The project, which started in January, is scheduled to be finished by 2019.
See video in media player above for visual representation of project goals
So far, construction crews have torn out the westernmost lanes on Bluff Street. Soon, they will move construction to the other side of the street, UDOT communication manager Kevin Griffin said.
For customers of businesses along Bluff Street, understanding how to access the ever-changing entry ways to the businesses on the side of the street where construction is taking place can be difficult.
Kneaders Bakery and Cafe business operator Kathy Hansen cited an example from last week when a man leaving Kneaders accidentally drove into the construction site and into a ditch. Access points and entry ways to businesses along Bluff Street are “extremely confusing,” Hansen said.
“All day long I get calls from people asking if we’re even open,” Hansen said. “There’s just this assumption that we’re not open because of the construction. And beyond that, there’s people who know we’re open, but they don’t want to deal with all the construction.”
Kneaders has experienced a 30 percent drop in sales since the construction project started, Hansen said. Similarly, Sue’s Pet Castle has seen a 25 percent loss, business owner Clay Russell said in March.
Once the construction project is completed, Griffin said business owners will be able to enjoy better access and an improved street outside their establishments. Griffin said he hopes businesses’ needs are still being met and addressed by UDOT during the construction period.
“I know a lot of the types of things we hear in virtually any construction project is ‘People can’t turn into our business,'” Griffin said.
To reduce the impact of the construction on businesses along Bluff Street, Griffin said UDOT made special blue signs to let customers know the businesses are still open, placed barrels at all of the entry ways so customers could see where to go, and managed dust control and noise.
The City of St. George also passed a temporary ordinance to allow businesses on Bluff Street to put up a 32-square-foot banner to indicate the business is still open. Mayor Jon Pike personally visited each and every business along Bluff Street to tell business owners about the temporary ordinance in March.
Besides asking customers to still patronize Kneaders during the construction period, there’s not much more Hansen can do besides hope they will start returning to Kneaders once the project is completed.
“Hopefully once the construction passes, Bluff will be more convenient to travel and people will return to their previous travel patterns,” she said, “and hopefully we’ll be able to regain our customers.”
In the end, the new and improved Bluff Street will be worth all of the inconvenience of the construction period, Griffin said.
“We’re not just rebuilding the road, we’re rebuilding infrastructure to go 40 years into the future that is beneath the road – the water, the sewer, the fiber – all of those different things are taking place,” Griffin said. “And the great part about it is the majority of it is already done.”
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