Downtown construction headaches that have frustrated motorists and business owners could extend into next year.
City Engineer Mike Taylor said the Second Avenue project has run into complications partly because old, mostly unused vaults – sidewalk entrances into the basements of buildings – are unstable and must be torn out.
“We’re running into a variety of things that have really been a challenge,” Taylor said.
He said crews will push forward and the road will be paved and fully open when the 2010 construction season ends. But crews may have to come back next year to put down a final layer of pavement.
There’s an upside to finishing next year: It allows workers to fix problems resulting from settling over winter, Taylor said.
Second Avenue west of Howard Street has been torn up since July. While the street has remained open most of the time, it has been reduced to one bumpy lane.
Some business owners say they’re frustrated by the length of the project, which is scheduled to last into November. They also say they’ve been hurt by the misconception that the street is closed.
Scott Thompson, owner of the Chevron station at Third Avenue and Lincoln Street, said his business is down significantly because of construction.
“They’re killing us, downtown,” Thompson said. “They have done the whole job for the convenience of the contractor, not for the convenience of the general public.”
Thompson said the contract with Inland Asphalt should have included an incentive to finish early and a requirement to work evenings and weekends.
Taylor said that while not in the construction contract, crews will soon start working weekends and longer hours. But Taylor and city leaders said creation of an incentive or requiring a more intensive work schedule likely would have raised the contract price.
Until recently, city officials had worried that they may not be able to complete the full list of street projects promised to voters under the 2004 voter-approved property tax because construction costs had skyrocketed in the first few years of work. The recent recession sent costs down, allowing city leaders to forecast completion on budget.
Delivering projects at or under budget will help convince voters that the city is responsible enough to handle a new round of street projects, officials say.
David Wells, owner of Wild Sage American Bistro, said he was warned by the city about the prospect of construction disruptions five years ago when he got his business license. He said road crews are doing “a great job.”
Business has been off about 30 percent since work began, Wells said. He would prefer to have work go faster, but he said he doesn’t blame the city for not requiring contractors to work nights or weekends.
“If it costs us more as taxpayers, I don’t know that people are going to agree to that,” Wells said.
Brent Christensen, general manager of Larry H. Miller Honda, stressed that Second Avenue remains open.
“It’s affecting our traffic a lot,” Christensen said. “I just want it to get done.”
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