I-15 construction messy but necessary

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    By SHANNA GHAZNAVI

    The closures of two major I-15 interchanges in Salt Lake City this September will have an immediate negative impact on many businesses in the downtown area, said Jess Agraz, the executive director of the Transportation Management Association of Utah.

    Jess Agraz also said business owners in the area realize there is no alternative to the closures, and once the roads are reopened, business will pick up again. Six hundred South will close on September 5 and reopen in October 1999. The 500 South on-ramp to I-15 northbound will not reopen after its closure on September 19, but it will be replaced by the new 400 South interchange, according to a news release from Wasatch Constructors.

    Executive vice president of Utah’s Retail Merchants’ Association, Jim Olsen, said his main concern is that businesses may not survive the closure. He said though the customers may return after the construction is over, businesses are losing employees during low-income construction times, and they may not make enough money to survive.

    “They’re losing good people,” Olsen said. “We’re just looking forward to it being over.” But, even though Olsen said he is concerned, he also said he realizes the construction is necessary.

    The main detours into and out of downtown Salt Lake will be 900 South for northbound traffic and 600 North for southbound traffic, said Brian Mauldwin, a spokesman for Wasatch Constructors. The I-15 northbound off-ramp to 600 North will open on September 4, according to a news release from Wasatch Constructors.

    Mauldwin said access to downtown businesses should be simple if drivers follow detour signs. He realizes the closures will affect a great number of businesses, but he has been working with many Salt Lake business associations to help them through the construction.

    Agraz said a major concern of business owners is the timing of the closure. He said it would have been easier for businesses if the closure had occurred after the holiday season. The opening of 400 South should ease the burdens of the businesses, he said.

    Other concerns, Agraz said, include the need for distinctive signs to help those attempting to find businesses and signs directing traffic to the capital building via ways other than North Temple, which is already congested.

    Customer-based businesses will be the most negatively impacted by the I-15 closures, but employee-based businesses will still feel the impact, Agraz said. The businesses closest to the closures will be the most impacted.

    A grant of $250,000 from the city and the Utah Transit Authority was made available to downtown businesses to help compensate for losses due to light rail construction. However, Olsen said, little or no compensation is available for businesses affected by the I-15 construction.

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