As neighborhoods take the place of open fields in some areas of north Oklahoma City, roads need to be expanded to handle increasing traffic.
And, while better, wider streets are a blessing for motorists, lengthy road-construction projects have been something of a curse to some local businesses.
Such is the case at NW 164 and N Pennsylvania Ave.
Jag Singh, owner of Old Vine Wine & Spirits near that intersection, said his sales for 2013, compared to 2012, were down 50 percent as crews worked month after month to turn two-lane roads into four-lane thoroughfares, and former customers avoided the construction zone.
“I had to let go my full time employee, and I have to work pretty much six days a week, 11 hours a day,” Singh said.
It's a similar story at nearby K&V Nail Spa.
“Yesterday, just one customer, and it's happened a lot,” said nail salon owner Kent Phan. One day last week, the once-busy shop took in only $30.
Sing said that in June 2012, city representatives held a meeting to inform shop owners and neighbors of the construction plans. They were told of a six-month project lasting from July to December of 2012. Depending on weather, business owners were told, the project could overflow into 2013.
Turns out the project didn't get finished until two weeks ago. What went wrong?
Construction crews were slowed greatly by numerous oil and natural gas pipelines, said Debbie Miller, assistant engineer with the city public works department.
Workers would regain momentum only to hit another pipeline. Construction would have to cease until confirmation was obtained on whether the line was active or abandoned. If abandoned, crews could simply cut through it. If it was in use, other, more complicated plans would have to be made.
There are provisions for the city to charge construction companies an extra $500 or more for each day a project is delayed, but no such extra payments were mandated in this case. Instead, construction companies were given extra time to deal with the unforeseen pipeline problems, plan modifications and associated issues.
Miller said her department is working to be more proactive in identifying issues that can delay projects.
“We've hired a utility coordinator to help with these utility issues that we're seeing, not only on this project but on other projects,” Miller said.
With construction completed and the road widened, Singh and Phan want people to know the area is no longer a lengthy, painful drive. The only thing left is some cleanup. But they have started to see some old regulars.
“A lot of customers have started to come back but still not up to what it used to be,” Singh said. Using Twitter and Facebook, Singh has been trying to speed up the recovery process, but he expects it to take another six months before his customer base returns to normal.