TWIN FALLS — Debra Bradley smiled as she watched construction activity outside the window of her women’s clothing boutique, HiPs.
The contractors have been doing a good job with dust abatement, she said. Communication has flowed smoothly. And the construction site at the end of the day has been “neat and tidy.”
But she’s ready for things to be back to normal. Bradley’s was the second block of Main Avenue to be torn up, and the shop hasn’t seen the same foot traffic since. She’s been scraping by to make rent.
“I wish it was done,” Bradley said. “I just wish it was done.”
Main Avenue reconstruction is about a week behind schedule on the first block from Gooding to Shoshone streets, but the Urban Renewal Agency says the project will still be finished by late October as planned.
The first block of the $6.45 million project got a late start in April while the Urban Renewal Agency waited on some design changes, URA Executive Director Nathan Murray said.
Since then, there’s been a few hiccups in the work.
“The first block is always going to be the most difficult because that’s when you learn from your mistakes,” Murray said. “I believe they’re going to be out of that block by July 10.”
What complicated the work was several basement unloading areas — including some old coal chutes — beneath the sidewalks. Although anticipated, they were larger than expected, so contractors had to design and engineer the sidewalk to ensure it wouldn’t fail, Murray said.
The second block between Fairfield and Gooding streets is scheduled to be finished sometime in July. Meanwhile, once the first block is complete, contractors will be able to begin demolition on the next phase, east of Shoshone Street.
This part of the project has changed. Main Avenue merchants from Shoshone Street to Idaho Street have asked the construction of their two blocks be done simultaneously.
“The two blocks do kind of flow together,” Murray said. “It might save us a little bit of time.”
During construction, portions of the sidewalk will be closed at times. Signs along the pathways will direct pedestrians, he said.
Parking is available behind those Main Avenue businesses, accessible via the Second Avenues. The URA also plans to clear its staging area in the parking lot along Second Avenue North between Gooding and Fairfield streets. The lot will be chip sealed and striped to help people know where to park, he said.
Once the first block from Shoshone to Gooding Street is complete, it will be open to vehicles. Some landscaping and light posts will begin to appear soon after.
About a half dozen parking spaces have been removed in front of several businesses to make way for extended sidewalks for festival seating. Restaurants are already making use of the extended outdoor seating.
Across the street, Tom Ashenbrener, who owns Rudy’s — A Cook’s Paradise, said more than half of his customers use the back entrance to his store. He’s lost about 20 percent of customers during construction, but his overall sales increased slightly.
Overall, he’s pleased with how reconstruction is shaping up.
“We’ve been through one of these before, and that one was way worse than this one,” he said.