Community

Roadwork is a mixed bag for Kenmore businesses

A view of State Route 522 construction looking east along the corridor. Work is expected to continue until 2010. - Joshua Adam Hicks / Reporter
A view of State Route 522 construction looking east along the corridor. Work is expected to continue until 2010.
— image credit: Joshua Adam Hicks / Reporter

Construction orange has been the prevailing color along Kenmore portions of State Route 522 for more than a year now, but business owners there are starting to see red.

The city of Kenmore has been working to increase capacity and safety along the road, but commerce has suffered since improvement projects began around mid-2007.

Mario Pimienta, the owner of Mazatlan Restaurant, claims he used to bring in $1,700 a day on weekdays and $3,500 a day on weekends.

Now its $500 and $1,800, respectively.

“It’s affected me really bad,” Pimienta said. “I’m almost ready to give up.”

Business has been slower at Mia Roma, as well.

“Definitely it has affected us,” said employee Linda Schilling. “Put it this way: I made $8.43 in tips last Saturday.

“It’s not even worth it to drive here some days.”

Employees at Mia Roma have seen their hours reduced in the past year. Two servers currently work most weekends at the restaurant when five used to be the norm.

Part of the problem with business is that construction crews periodically block off entrances, forcing drivers to take roundabout ways to whatever venues they’re trying to reach.

The city has worked out an agreement with its contractors to keep driveways at least partially open at all times, but it appears that some people aren’t noticing.

“Sometimes they block the entrance completely so that people cannot come in,” Pimienta said. “They did it once at noon. That’s my lunch rush. Who’s going to come eat when that happens?”

Communication has been another problem.

The city has provided construction updates via newsletter, through a 24-hour hotline (425-361-6300) and online at www.kenmoresr522.com.

Still, those affected by the work complain that officials have done a poor job of providing information.

“The construction guys out here said it might take a couple of years, but I’ve heard different things,” said Pan Brookins, a server at Uma Thai Kitchen. “I don’t know who’s telling the truth.”

Schilling said she is concerned about rumors that a new median will block left-hand turns into the Mia Roma parking lot.

Already, the restaurant is struggling to attract new business because of the constant commotion.

“We’re lucky to be a neighborhood business,” Schilling said. “If you’d never been here, you’d just drive by, it’s so intimidating.

“It’s just been a big pain in the butt. It’s like it’ll never be done.”

Schilling said there have been nights when customers had to leave by 7 p.m. because the construction noise and glaring lights were too much.

“It just felt like we were invaded,” she said.

Not everyone has a grim outlook on the situation.

Tim Feingold is a Lake Forest Park resident who travels to the Kenmore Starbucks on a daily basis.

A new traffic light helps him make the left turn to his favorite java joint nowadays.

“I think that’s helped a lot,” Feingold said. “It used to be horrendous trying to sneak in between traffic. It’s been over a year now with this construction. You get used to it.

“Politicians keep talking about tolls on 520, which means this road is going to get more busy. This can only help in the end.”

The current SR 522 projects include improvements along Kenmore’s east segment — from 73rd Avenue Northeast and 83rd Place Northeast — and on the central portion between 65th Avenue Northeast and 73rd Avenue Northeast.

Work along the eastern segment has brought two new traffic lights — one for the Kenmore Square shopping center and another for 83rd Place Northeast — a replacement of the bridge over Swamp Creek and extended business-access and transit lanes.

Construction there is expected to wrap up in early 2009.

Improvement for the central segment include realignment of the 68th Avenue Northeast/Northeast 181st Street and SR 522/65th Avenue Northeast intersections, a new traffic signal at 73rd Avenue Northeast and Northeast 181st Street, and new lanes for west- and north-bound traffic at the junction for 68th Avenue Northeast and SR 522.

Those projects are scheduled for completion by 2010.

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