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Construction cones block part of Washington Avenue in front of Eide Hyundai on Monday afternoon. The dealership has been forced to move its stock to a temporary location until construction ceases, while still operating the service shop at regular hours. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald

Construction on Washington Street causes confusion but businesses cope

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Since the first week of June, a construction project has strewn Washington Street with orange traffic cones limiting traffic to one lane in each direction from 32nd Avenue to 13th Avenue South. The project, which began in May and is scheduled to end in September, will improve pavement and construct new turn lanes.

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The limited lanes and reduced speeds are common for major road construction, but the solid traffic flow Washington Street receives from its heavy concentration of local businesses and restaurant chains has caused some confusing traffic scenarios.

When Jay Potulny, the general manager of Eide Motors, was notified of the upcoming lane closures that would affect traffic in front of the dealership on Washington, he decided to get one step ahead of the traffic jam. Eide Motors set up cars for a sale in the lot of the old Golden Corral, which is also owned by the owner of the dealership, on the 3200 block of 32nd Avenue.

“We went to the people instead of having them fight to get to us,” he said.

Potulny said the new lot has created an opportunity for the dealership to get exposure to a crowd of people who wouldn’t normally drive by the location on Washington. Although it took a while for word to get around that Eide Motors had moved their cars, it eventually caught on and people started visiting the temporary location.

“We think it’s going to be better in the long run,” he said.

Business as usual

Other businesses along Washington said business hasn’t slowed much, if at all.

“I don’t think we’ve lost a whole lot,” said Shelly Hovet, who manages the Orton’s gas station at Washington Street and Campbell Drive. She said that because construction is occurring all over town, people aren’t making dramatic adjustments to their driving routes.

“If you’ve got to go through it, you might as well,” she said.

“It’s been as busy as it’s ever been,” said Russ Mesteth, an employee at First National Pawn. He said the main difficulty with the construction was getting into work some days.

For Domino’s Pizza, the main struggle hasn’t been keeping up business, but rather keeping up with delivery times. Assistant Manager Jackie Lee Farrow said drivers have had some difficulty making their deliveries within the 30-minute window they’re supposed to.

However, the rainy weather has kept people ordering pizza, so business hasn’t slowed as a result of slightly slower delivery times.

Megan Link, the manager of Kenny’s Music Shoppe, said business hasn’t really been affected. She said Kenny’s is a destination business, and most of their clientele come in to pick up specific items they need such as guitar strings.

“They know where to find us and they come in,” Link said.

L&M Meats, another niche business at Washington Street and 28th Avenue, has seen consistent business for the duration of the construction project, although owner Jeff Novak said the recent closure of the right turn lane on northbound Washington Street might prove inconvenient for customers trying to get to the store in that way.

Timeline:

May: Utility work off roadway began.

June: Washington Street reduced to one lane in each direction.

September: Project expected to be completed. 

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