By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Camanche Avenue is expected to open Clinton to a bevy of new business and economic activity, but some business owners along the torn-up highway say the construction that started last April has nearly led them to close.
Brad Carroll, 48, owner of Illowa Cycle Center, usually sees a sales boom at Illowa from April to June. This year, though, sales at the motorcycle, ATV and scooter shop at 222 22nd Place have not peaked as they usually do.
Carroll blames this in part on the construction that has 22nd Place inaccessible from Camanche Avenue. Potential cus- tomers have to travel up 21st or 23rd Place to Iowa Avenue and then turn down 22nd Place.
City Engineer Jason Craft said 22nd Place will be open next week with a temporary access being complete as early as Monday. After that, a permanent access will be constructed. On Thursday, Carroll came to work to find that Iowa Avenue was closed due to work being done by Iowa American Water, making access to his shop nearly impossible. Craft said Iowa American was told not to block access form Iowa Avenue with future work.
However, Carroll said the road closure has already disturbed his business.
“I have been listening to people for six or seven months say ‘I can’t get here.’ I have a three- month bump. If they have both ends of my street blocked off, I’m not going to make it through the winter,” Carroll said.
The $14.7 million Camanche Avenue project is the final phase of the Liberty Square effort to reconstruct and repair Clinton’s US 30/67 corridor. City and state officials anticipate the project will be substantially finished by September with all work complete in November.
Officials originally pegged the project to be complete in spring 2014, but a robust pace shortened that timeline.
“It’s not our goal to adversely affect some- one’s business,” Craft said. “You can’t construct a project of that magni- tude without affecting access.”
Carroll said while he understands why the city and the state are improv- ing the highway, it’s being done at the expense of business owners.
“This is my livelihood. I have my life savings invested in this business. I’m sure it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what they’re doing out there, but they’re going to lose my business,” Carroll said. “I used to think I’d be fine. Now I’m not so sure.”
Carroll isn’t the only business owner along Camanche Avenue that’s felt a pinch since construction started. Wayne Hill, 63, owner of Two Hills Bar and Grill, 1516 Camanche Ave., said he’s lost money this year because of how many times traffic into his restaurant and bar has been diverted.
“It’s been devastating,” Hill said. “I have lost $35,000 since they start- ed with this last spring.”
The DOT and the city have placed signs along the road to let motorists know where business entrances are, but the swift construction pace means the signs might not stay in one place for long. In the past year, the access to Two Hills Bar and Grill, as well as the access to other area busi- nesses along Camanche Avenue, has been repeatedly altered, which Hill believes has caused cus- tomers to find food and drink elsewhere.
“If they come here, they’ll stay here and have a drink and some food, but it’s getting here that’s the problem,” Hill said.
“Especially at night if they pass it up, they’ll just go somewhere else rather than drive around all those side streets. People just don’t want to mess with that”
Not all business own- ers along the road have been as negatively impacted as Carroll or Hill. Ben Damhoff, 28, owner of Ben’s Bicycles at 2458 Camanche Avenue, opened his shop around the time construc- tion started last spring.
“We knew what we were getting into,” he said. “It’s made things a challenge, but we knew things were going to be that way.”
Once the road is com- plete, there will be three westbound lanes of traf- fic and the addition of a multi-use trail, street trees and decorative lighting. Damhoff said the construction, which has shifted the entrance to his business on differ- ent occasions, has his customers also wonder- ing how to access the shop.
“It’s been hard for us, no doubt. But we need the construction in order to have nice things over here. We’re excited for what it will be like when it’s finished,” Damhoff said.
The work is being per- formed by contractors with the Iowa DOT with the city and state’s con- sultant also overseeing the work.
Mark Brandl, the administrating project engineer with the Iowa DOT, said contractors have been instructed to allow access to business- es at all times. He also said while business own- ers might experience some disturbances, the end result will be in their favor.
“Construction does cause an inconvenience,” he said. “We recognize that and most communi- ties understand that. Once the project is done, theses business owners will reap the benefits of the recon- struction and will have expanded access with the new road.”