When the reconstruction of Highway 160 on South Broadway between McElmo and Maple streets started in July, the Colorado Department of Transportation said there would be access to businesses despite the scope of the project.
They said signs would be placed around town to show residents how to gain access to the impacted businesses, and stated what might be an access to a business one day could be changed the next day.
The access problems have upset several business owners and operators, and they are saying it’s had a harsh impact because many residents do not know how to gain access or even if there is any access.
Lucas Picken, a salesman for Keesee Motor Co., said business at the auto dealership has decreased by more than two-thirds since the road was torn up to begin the repaving project.
Last Friday afternoon not one person visited the auto dealership in a 90-minute time period, and many possible customers called receptionist Christina Knapp to ask if they were open and how they could gain access to the dealership.
Knapp said she received more than 50 calls from residents asking whether the business had any access. She said she had to give them directions in hopes the construction project would not keep them away.
She also said that the employees are not too happy with all of the construction that has hampered the dealership and auto repair shop.
One employee said he noticed that Burger King decided to close until the construction was finished, though others pointed to the fast food restaurant’s parking lot being repaved as the reason for the closing.
“There’s not a lot of walk-in traffic,” Picken said, adding that the dealership has not changed or cut back on hours because of the decreased business.
“There is not an access,” he said. “There’s no sign or anything telling you how to get here.”
Picken said CDOT representatives came in to talk and present their plans with a few people at the business, though Picken said he is not sure what was actually discussed or said.
“I kind of had an idea,” he said about what he expected of the construction impacts. “I did not know it was going to be this hard to get to work.”
Another salesman said he thinks that the NAPA auto parts store might have some of the worst access problems. He said with all of the auto parts stores in Cortez, why would anyone fight the construction to shop at NAPA?
NAPA on this Friday afternoon was completely vacant except for two employees behind the parts counters and the owner, Joleen Daves.
Daves said business has decreased some since construction started, making it harder for customers to get to her business, but added the saving grace is the customers who do not mind fighting the construction to shop.
“We got our dedicated customers who do come in,” she said. “We knew (business) was going to be down.”
The New Country Auto Center is feeling the impacts of the construction project as well.
On Friday afternoon a receptionist fielded phone calls and assured customers that they were open for business before giving them directions to the business.
Houston Frizzell, business manager of New Country, said the construction and the traffic was what they expected.
He said the auto dealership planned ahead and moved their vehicles for sale to a lot on Highway 160 right outside of the city.
Frizzell said while the auto sales have gone up because of the move, the parts and services departments that are still on South Broadway have taken a hit.
“We knew the (area) was going to be a mess,” he said, mentioning a few people working on the project kept them informed on what was happening.
Nanci Regnier of Regnier & Associates Inc., the firm that is handling the public relations part of the project, said the work on the southbound lanes of Broadway will continue for another three to four weeks.
Regnier said she has received a few calls from concerned residents, but was able to let them know what was occurring.
Once the southbound lanes are complete the work will shift to the northbound lanes. She said the work includes paving, grading and milling the gravel.
She said everything possible was done to minimize the impacts to businesses and tried to keep them informed through fliers and press releases.
She said stopping for the flaggers working with the project is only causing interruptions of a short duration.
Regnier also said there was a public hearing in June for residents and businesses to talk about any concerns.
Each business has access signs with the name of the company on it to help residents navigate where they want to go, she said.
“We did everything possible to let businesses learn about the construction,” she said. “When you do a traffic change it can become confusing, but we did everything we could. Anytime you do a change it will be disruptive.”
Reginer said anyone with concerns about the project can leave a message for her at 744-6630, and she will return the call.