Road work zones can be tough on nearby merchants whose customers might not have patience with congestion and changing traffic patterns. “Nobody was coming in when it first started,” said Jesse Singh about an ongoing remodel of the Kiernan Avenue interchange with Highway 99. He has time to watch the action from the door of his House of Liquor in Salida, where he said business has slowed about 40 percent.
On the other side of the interchange, customers at the Vineyard 76 station are spending about 10 percent less since work started nearly two years ago, assistant manager Lizabeth Madrigal estimated. “We’re down quite a bit,” she said. “The more construction, the less sales we have.”
Just down the road, some businesses near the freeway’s interchange with Pelandale Avenue – also being rebuilt – reported similar problems. Chronic traffic snarls make getting off Highway 99 a real trial of patience, and some merchants said it’s clear some customers don’t think the fight is worth it.
“People don’t want to get off the freeway to come over,” said Melissa Harlan of DeAngelos Jewelry, who noted a drop in business even during Christmas. Drivers have few options for reaching Pelandale shops, she said, noting Kiernan’s congestion to the north and heavy mall traffic on the Standiford-Beckwith interchange to the south.
“People think we’re inconvenient, so they’re avoiding us altogether” and driving to other shops, agreed Gilbert Lucero, manager of Yogurt Mill next door. “It’ll be nice when they’re done. Till then, it’ll be a little crazy.”
That means enduring until fall 2016 for the $44 million Kiernan project, and until 2017 for the $55 million Pelandale remake. Both initially were built in 1970, when Modesto’s population was about a third of what it is today.
“I have no choice” but to endure, said Singh, who wrote a letter to the California Department of Transportation but expects no sympathy. A recent Caltrans decision to disallow U-turns for westbound drivers at Broadway and Salida Avenue – a main access to his store for those just coming off the freeway – was like a death sentence, Singh said.
“What are you going to do?” he said. “You can’t cry and you can’t fight with the state; they don’t care.”
Some stores relying less on drive-by and foot traffic and perhaps more on customer loyalty said they’re getting by.
“I hear frustrations from customers, but they’ll find us,” said Jeff Hoekstra, manager of Krier’s Cards & Comics.
“We’re doing OK now,” said Maiwand Mateen of Smoke Zone.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.