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New roadway sparks ire among local businesses



For many people who regularly use 13th Avenue and Alder Street, the sight of construction tape, equipment, detour signs and metal barriers were a common occurrence for the past four months as the City of Eugene worked to reconstruct those heavily used roads that are less than a block away from the University.

And although the smoke and dust from the extensive $10.3 million construction project has cleared from 13th Avenue and Alder Street, the fuming frustrations from adjacent businesses have not.

“I think the people who designed these plans have no freaking clue what they’re talking about,” Smokehouse BBQ owner Aaron Speck said as he stood outside of his restaurant along Alder Street. “Parking is so much more valuable than a double bike lane, and parking in the middle of the street is really stupid. I couldn’t plan anything, because I didn’t know what they were doing. The City of Eugene doesn’t care because they’re not going to give us a tax break or help us out at all — they just pretend like they care.”

From the time that construction began in June, Speck estimates that he lost between $5,000 to $6,000 in business — a great loss for his business, since the restaurant just opened nine months ago, he explained. Similar to Speck, other business owners and operators are frustrated with the city’s planning and reconstruction of the roadway that cut out valuable parking spaces for customers, temporarily affecting business and discouraging customers from visiting their stores.

Darren Heffner, the general manager of Ron’s Island Grill on Alder Street, said the ongoing construction over the summer cut the restaurant’s typical business in half and currently makes it difficult for him and employees to unload their stock in the morning. Heffner also explained that the diagonal parking on 13th Avenue makes it difficult for potential customers to park their cars and creates a dangerous situations for motorists, who are sometimes forced to swerve into the bike lanes to avoid parking cars.

“I just really think that it’s careless on how they constructed the whole thing,” Heffner said. “They didn’t care for any of the businesses and how bad they were affecting them.”

However, Jon Bonham, the city’s Department of Public Works Engineering Project Manager who was in charge of the project, said the comments the departments have received so far have been constructive and relatively less than other construction sites in the city of the same scope and magnitude.

“We need to give it some time and let people get used to it,” Bonham said. “People are going to learn, things are going to get better, and people will figure things out. This is a pretty big change and is a large depart from our previous plans.” @@”depart”? double check for [email protected]@

Rob Inerfeld, the City Design Manager who was tasked with reconstructing the roadway along 13th Avenue and Alder Street between 18th Street and Franklin Boulevard, said many of the street layouts were the result of several community workshops. By creating two designated lanes — one for cars and one for bicyclists — Inerfeld said it increases a driver’s awareness of bicyclists and prevents collisions that had plagued Alder Street prior to construction.  Also, to ease the fears of bicyclists about being hit with opening car doors, a buffer zone was created between parking spaces and bicycle lanes, and back-in parking was created on 13th Avenue to mitigate these risks.

“We feel that a facility that gives a little more separation between vehicles and bicyclists can attract more people who aren’t as confident to bike more easily, ” Inerfeld said.

Despite the criticism from many businesses in the area, some local community members are satisfied with the city’s efforts. Marc Schlossberg, the associate director of the University’s Sustainable Cities Initiative and a Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management professor lauded the city’s street design along Alder Street and 13th Avenue, saying that it provides direct, well-marked routes to the downtown, University and riverfront areas for bicyclists and effectively creates an adequate buffer space between cars and bicyclists through the use of road markings.

“I think it’s a brilliant design,” Schlossberg said. “I think it’s a big leap forward for the city and that it’s a model for how streets can be designed to make a variety of people on bike feel safe in riding.”

 

 


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