Boulevard Blues

Street Repairs Wreak Havoc on Biscayne Boulevard Businesses Bottom Line

Story & Photos By Josh Malina

A US-1 renovation project has hurt sales of businesses alongside Biscayne Blvd in the City of Miami, say store owners. The roadway reconstruction project, which spans twenty blocks from NE 15th Street to NE 35th Terrace, will replace drainage systems and update curb ramps to meet national disability standards.

Despite the project’s benefits, however, some business owners are not happy. Adam Meltzer, owner of The Daily Creative Food (US1 & NE 20th), said his restaurant sales are down fifteen to eighteen percent, which he attributes to frequent road closures.

Neighboring business managers echo Meltzer’s complaints. “When you have to go through the nightmare of streets being closed and park two blocks down, you find some place else to go,” said manager Alex Morales of Salad Creations (US1 and 19th St) which has also seen a decrease in sales.

The Florida Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the project, acknowledges local business owners’ concerns. “The department is trying to minimize overall impacts to the community as much as possible,” said Heather Leslie, a FDOT information officer.

FDOT has directed project contractors to work in stages “to be able to reopen work zones as soon as possible,” and offers contractors an incentive for completing the project early—up to $1,000,000 if finished 100 days ahead of schedule—and a pay cut if they must work beyond the original contract time. The project represents the final piece of a larger reconstruction effort, the US1 corridor improvement program, which is scheduled to finish by August 2011.

For some business owners, that date cannot come soon enough. “I have a lot of people that don’t come anymore,” said Pascal André of Franck Provost salon (US1 and 20th St). André reports a twenty percent reduction in sales, as well as problems scheduling clients because they arrive late to their appointments.

To mitigate the effects of the construction on local businesses, FDOT has increased roadside signage to advertise the names of businesses affected by the construction. FDOT also sends emails to business owners advising them of planned street closures, although some businesses report that they do not receive these e-mails.

This also affects the traffic flow all the way down Biscayne on both sides. With the continuous lane changes and detours it slows traffic all the way from the Port of Miami to the 41st Street causeway to Miami Beach. Evenings are even more trouble with some sections of Biscayne closed down all together.

Some customers interviewed for this story reported annoyance at construction, but did not consider it prohibitively inconvenient, especially if they arrived by foot. While others are staying away until the work is finished.

“It is such a hassle to drive down Biscayne, so I totally avoid that area at all costs. I take back roads if I need too. As far as shopping, I would love to stop, but parking is just to much of a hassle,” said Jackie Torres.

Last Friday (Sept. 3rd), contractors broke a water main on US1 and NE 25th Street, sending a “precautionary boil water order” into effect, according to the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department. That ban has since been lifted.

Beside drainage system updates, the project is set to improve curbs and gutters, upgrade lighting, traffic and pedestrian signs, and install new landscaping and irrigation.

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