By Ryan Gueningsman
One week into Highway 12 construction, business owners expressed concerns about the project to date, and also reviewed signage and marketing efforts at the latest meeting of the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce’s Highway 12 task force Wednesday morning.
During introductions and sharing of initial concerns, Joe Tipka, store manager of Coborn’s in Delano, said there have been some close calls with some of his employees trying to get in and out of the entrance onto St. Peter Avenue due to the increase in traffic on that road.
With the change in the construction schedule now affecting the section of Highway 12 from Delano Crossings to the Ninth Street area more than was anticipated, alternate business access routes have been put in place. Having one river crossing has also, in a sense, divided Delano into two sections west of the river and east of it.
“We can’t change it, and it is definitely a hardship to businesses on both sides (of the Crow River),” said John Tackaberry of Star West, a co-chairperson of the task force. Tackaberry said he has received calls from people on one side of the river asking how to get to the other side.
Information received from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) by the chamber on how to survive construction was discussed, and it was the feeling of the task force that many of the things mentioned in the information were already happening.
“We’re way ahead of the game, but we’ve gotta stay in the game for the next seven months,” Tackaberry said.
John Chun, owner of Chun Mee, said his business has dropped in half since the start of construction, and said he’s afraid he may not be able to pay rent in the upcoming month.
“We really need help,” Chun said.
Scott Shoutz, owner of Loopy’s Dollar Store, said his business was also down. He expressed concerns about semi trucks being forced to turn into the parking lot of the Delano East Shopping Center, and said the pavement is getting broken up because of it.
He also expressed concern about construction workers parking vehicles in the spots typically used for customers of the mall.
Thoughts were also expressed by some in attendance about construction workers littering with pop bottles and food wrappers.
Steve Johnson of Delano Printing said his business has not yet been greatly affected by the construction, and said he wants to be there for anyone who needs anything to help their business.
The task force also discussed the “detour of the detour,” set to begin Monday, May 5, and will detour traffic around County Line Road because Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway is making repairs to the crossing. During this period, the city may re-open the Elm Avenue intersection to help with traffic flow.
City Engineer Vince Vander Top of Wenck Associates also said MnDOT is re-evaluating a possible alternate truck route around Delano, aleviating through-semi traffic in town.
Vander Top also gave a general update on the project’s progress, and talked about the traffic signal issues, both at the intersection of River Street and Bridge Avenue, and also Highway 12 and Bridge Avenue.
Other things discussed was the possiblity of limiting parking on one side of Rockford Avenue due to the increased traffic on the road, a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Ninth Street and St. Peter Avenue, a possible stop sign at Rockford Avenue and Ninth Street, and additional signage from River Street south to Franklin Avenue, then east, hooking up with Rockford to Ninth.
After discussion, it was decided to not look at any additional signage in that area, noting it was a residential area.
The task force focuses its efforts in four main areas maps, signage, safety, and marketing.
Task force co-chairperson Wendy Gilmer of State Bank of Delano said it’s important to use existing business networks to help other businesses.
“We’re all in this together,” she said at the regular chamber meeting Thursday in an update on the task force’s activities.
Next task force meeting in two weeks
The Delano Area Chamber of Commerce’s Highway 12 task force will meet again in two weeks Tuesday, April 29 at 9 a.m. at the State Bank of Delano’s lower level meeting room.
For more information on the task force, contact the chamber offices at (763) 972-6756, or online at www.delanochamber.com.