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Work leaves Hayden firms in lurch

MONDAY, SEPT. 24, 2007

HAYDEN – “Road work ahead,” read the signs on Government Way.

By now, businesses along Hayden’s main drag wish the road work was behind them.

“Every time we think it can’t get any worse, it gets worse,” said Heather Woodland, assistant manager at Zip’s fast food restaurant.

Before construction began in March, Zip’s enjoyed hourly sales between $500 and $600 during peak times, store manager Kristie Tolley said.

Now, they’re lucky to break $100.

Like some neighboring businesses, Zip’s reduced its store hours and scaled back employee schedules after Government Way construction caused sales to dwindle.

The work includes widening Government Way to three lanes between Honeysuckle and Miles avenues. Crews are building sidewalks and curbs, and installing water and sewer lines. There will be new landscaping and streetlights.

The $4.8 million project is 24 days behind schedule, said Kevin Clement, Hayden’s director of public works.

“We had some unexpected events,” like finding an abandoned underground gasoline storage tank in the path of the work, Clement said. “Delays of this type are not uncommon for a project of this size.”

The new completion date is Oct. 24, although some landscaping work may remain, as well as the installation of decorative streetlights.

In the meantime, northbound traffic is routed away from the mile-long construction zone – and therefore the businesses that front Government Way. But the street has remained open throughout construction to a single lane of southbound traffic.

“Obviously, people are tired,” Clement said.

“It’s been a long process and everybody wants to see it completed.”

Tracy Hayes, a manager at The Donut Shop, said she can work five hours and bring in $1.30 in sales. Before construction began, she’d pull in at least $100.

The road work is too disruptive and signs too confusing for walk-in traffic to find the shop, she said.

City employees and other business owners make a point of frequenting the places most affected by the construction, Woodland said.

People from City Hall regularly come in for lunch at Zip’s, she said.

Though businesses have lost revenue, Clement said, most are taking the long view, realizing the completed project will improve the downtown area.

“The business owners have been very, very good to work with,” he said.

“Someone might think that’s just the party line, but it’s not. It’s true.”

Some businesses are doing OK. Country Cleaners dry cleaning, for example, has seen a decrease in sales, but nothing like what some neighbors have experienced, said owner Terry Finley.

“The only saving grace that we have is we have a pickup and delivery van,” Finley said.

Melissa Cheney, owner of Lakeshore Décor, said her business is doing fine, but construction has made furniture deliveries difficult.

“I’ve had to meet them on corners of other businesses and transfer from one car to the next,” she said.

Business owners try to stay optimistic, but, she said, “I think most people are at their wit’s end.”

Hayes said the work she’s seen done in the past week has been encouraging.

“When you see the asphalt going down, you know there’s hope ahead,” she said.

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