Roadwork impacts area businesses

Bumper-to-bumper traffic slows customer traffic

Plenty of cars entered the gravel parking lot of Digger’s Bar and Grill Thursday afternoon, but inside, it was a different story. Only a handful of people sat in the quiet restaurant to enjoy a late lunch.

And that’s what worried owner Sue Helmling. Cars are using her lot as a shortcut through the construction on state Route 43.

“I would say it affects my lunch business the worst,” said Helming. “Everybody’s in a hurry.”

The fact that it’s a restaurant isn’t helping the situation, she said.

“(People are) not going to sit in traffic and fight to come here when there’s tons of restaurants all over,” she said.

She said she blames the Fairchild bridge construction for the lack of foot traffic in her bar and diner. Closed streets, blocked driveways and bumper-to-bumper cars nearly swallow the businesses surrounding the bridge. This makes it difficult to maneuver the area and fight traffic to reach these destinations.

It also makes her parking lot a frequent cut-through. Even though there is a no shortcutting sign, Helmling estimates about 300 cars a day go through her lot.

“We’re getting big dips in my parking lot now because of the extra traffic,” she said.

To combat the construction’s effect, she is advertising more and having different lunch specials.

City Engineer Jim Bowling is sensitive to these construction-related problems.

“We’ve met with the owners of the businesses whenever we can to talk with them about what would be best to help their individual situations,” Bowling said.

He explained the overall timing of Kent’s construction aimed to have small areas, like state Route 43, worked on one at a time. This allows for detours and more concentrated traffic problems.

Two doors down, A Cut Above has been somewhat resilient against construction. Though it might have scared off new customers, owner Karen Shaw said she thinks the economy is also at fault. Customers will choose to go a little longer between haircuts and colors, but she is thankful people tend to be loyal.

“Getting a bad haircut is going to last you six weeks,” Shaw said in contrast to being able to switch eateries for convenience.

With the orange cones clogging state Route 43, she said, “Maybe people will actually slow down and see my sign.”

Dan Smith, city economic development director, said he ensures businesses that workers are trying to finish roadwork efficiently.

“I think when it’s all done in a year from now and normal traffic patterns continue, it’s going to be a very nice section of town,” Smith said.

Jamie Shearer at [email protected] and Jessica Roblin at [email protected].