Construction on East 13th Avenue changes business environment

Students and residents were surprised Tuesday morning to find a giant hole where the corner of East 13th Avenue and Alder Street had been.

Tuesday was the start of the third phase of a project to make the street more accessible for parking, bicycles and automobile traffic between Alder and Kincaid streets. For the time being, it means shutting off that block completely.

“We’re digging the entire road up, moving the curbs, putting in all new paint and replacing all of the sidewalks,”said John Bonham, the project manager for the City of [email protected]@[email protected]@ “This phase will start with the street construction, but leave the sidewalks open for pedestrians and patrons.”

The plan is to widen the street so that there can be new parking, bike lanes, and a new sidewalk. They are also adding in new wells for trees and multiple new bike racks.

“The new street is designed as back-end parking. It’ll be a wide travel lane, and that will be shared with bicycles. The cars will back into the parking. And the opposite side of the road will have a designated bike lane going westbound,” Bonham said.

However, at the moment businesses are dealing with the construction’s effect on their businesses. Susan Kelley, @@[email protected]@the owner of Blue Heron Bicycles, noticed more than a few problems with the current arrangement.

“I think that a lot of people are turning away,” Kelley said. “They look down the street and think, ‘Maybe we shouldn’t go there today.'”

But they are doing the best they can with what they have.

“We try to make sure we let everyone know we have a back door, and you can use it,” Kelley said.

Aside from that, the construction meant that all of the parking meters were pulled up from the street. The bikes that some patrons had believed to be safe while locked to those meters were left by themselves on the street.

“We could see from the shop that there were several of them,” Kelley said. “We took about six bikes into the shop. We tried to take them to the police, but they were closed today. So if anyone is looking for their bike, we might have it.”

Karen Humphreys, owner of Yogurt Extreme, has not had quite the same problems, but she has noticed a small effect.

“I think the biggest impact it’s having is parking,” Humphreys said. “Lots of customers are calling and asking ‘Is there any parking near there? Can we park around there at all?”

Eugene partnered with the University to provide some free public parking during this time. However, it is a small lot on East 13th Alley behind the US Bank and East Meets West with only about 14 spaces, and a one-hour parking limit.

“There wasn’t a lot of parking but we made an effort to make an improvement,” Bonham said.  “Now that the Alder section is mostly complete, we’re going to offer some more temporary free parking there starting this morning.”

Once the city finishes the street construction, it will begin the sidewalk reconstruction. There will be ramps added from the street to businesses doors and pedestrians will be asked to use the street for walking.

After this, they are expecting one last phase that will take the construction down Alder Street, from East 13th to 18th avenues. This is expected to be the fastest part of this whole project, as it is just tearing out the road and filling it back in.

The city is still uncertain about what the precise date the project will be finished; however, construction must be complete before the new school year begins.

“The project is scheduled to be before school goes back into session, second or third week of September,” Bonham said.

Both business owners were in agreement that the faster this construction is done, the easier it will be for everyone.

“I think they’re doing everything that they can,” Humpreys said. “As long as it’s done by they time students come back, everything will be okay.”

Kelley feels the construction’s effect a little more, and is hoping for sooner than the new school year.

“I hope they realize that the construction needs to get done as soon as possible,” Kelley said. “Anything later than the end of August will start to hurt us.”

To make an easier transition for the businesses affected, the city’s project managers will meet with local business owners Thursday.

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Becky Metrick

Becky Metrick