OGDEN — The Utah Department of Transportation says they’re doing everything they can to mitigate business impacts associated with their $3 million reconstruction of the intersection of 12th Street and Washington Boulevard.
Jesus Ruiz says he just hopes his fledgling restaurant can survive the project.
UDOT began a project this spring to add dual left turn lanes at all four points of the 12th Street and Washington Boulevard intersection.
Transportation department spokesman Vic Saunders said left turn lanes at all directions of the intersection have become increasingly congested over the last few years, with traffic often backing up in the turn lanes and impacting traffic in adjacent travel lanes during peak morning and evening commute times.
The 12th Street and Washington area is one of Ogden’s busiest commercial centers. According to numbers from UDOT, an average of about 23,000 vehicles drove through the intersection daily in 2016.
The state owned 12th Street (also called State Road 39) provides direct access to Interstate 15, the Upper Ogden Valley, the Business Depot Ogden and dozens of businesses concentrated between Harrison Boulevard and the freeway. Other than the area near the I-15 Interchange, the Washington Boulevard to Wall Avenue area was the busiest section of 12th Street in 2016.
Obviously, all that traffic is good for businesses, which is why Ruiz opened the Señor Pollo Mexican Grill at 1145 Washington Blvd. earlier this year. Ruiz says his restaurant built up a steady and consistent customer base in the initial weeks of operation, but those numbers have declined sharply since the intersection project began.
“Our sales have gone down about 40 to 50 percent,” he said. “It’s been tough, but we’re doing our best. We’re hanging in. Just really hoping they can wrap this thing up quick.”
Located at the northwest corner of the 12th and Washington intersection, Ruiz says access to his establishment has been cut-off or shifted at various times throughout the project. That, the mess of construction and motorists generally trying to avoid 12th Street have hit Señor Pollo hard.
Kristen Bottorff owns Tobacco Joe’s, just across Washington to the east from Señor Pollo. Bottorff didn’t have specific sales figures, but said the project has undoubtedly impacted business.
“The parking lot’s been jammed up because people try to detour through here and people are just trying to avoid 12th Street,” she said. “So yeah, things have definitely been slower than normal.”
Saunders said the state is sympathetic to business owners’ struggles and has tried to accommodate them as best they can.
“We sent out a public involvement team before one spade of soil was turned, to meet with all the businesses that would be impacted,” he said. “And we’ve continued to meet with them throughout the project. When there are significant impacts, we try to let them know well beforehand.”
Saunders acknowledges though, attentiveness can only do so much and a certain amount of pain for businesses is unavoidable. He said that’s why crews are working to finish the project as quickly as possible. He said the project is expected to be complete by the end of September.
“We’re looking forward to the day they finish,” Ruiz said.