Summer Roadwork's Effect on the Twin Ports Drivers, Business

By KBJR News 1

May 21, 2012 Updated May 21, 2012 at 9:30 PM CDT

TWIN PORTS, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - In the Northland, many residents like to say there's two seasons: winter and road construction.

Lane closures on Interstate 35 and the Blatnik Bridge are testing the patience of motorists in the Twin Ports. Some businesses are feeling the frustration too.

While drivers deal with icy roads slowing traffic in the winter, it's detours and closed lanes that test their tolerance in the summer.

"A lot of customers come in and ask about where they have to go and where the detour takes them," said Shantelle Gebhardt, who work at the SPUR convenience store next to the bridge.

The Blatnik Bridge project has closed down the lane crossing into Duluth, sending traffic to the Bong Bridge.

"We've had only a couple of complaints about our project here on the Blatnik Bridge,..We've been making good progress. Our contractors are here doing their jobs," said Beth Petrowske, the MnDOT Public Affairs Coordinator.

A lighter guardrail will replace the old one, and expansion joints are also being replaced.

"I think it's hard for people to imagine the scope of a project like this. It's Huge! When you get out of your car and you're walking around on this bridge you realize how large it is and what a big undertaking it is, to do a project like this," said Petrowske.

While some businesses might get traffic detoured their way, others get put in a summer slump.

While drivers work to find the quickest way to cross the water, businesses on the Superior end of the bridge say they're feeling the effects.

"We're losing a lot of business from it." said Gebhardt.

The SPUR gas station is among businesses that have had fewer customers, because the traffic has more-or-less been cut in half.

The business is cutting down on the amount of food it's making, and the number of hours some employees work.

"We're trying to think about what we can do to bring the business to us," said Gebhardt.

Once the Northbound lane is back open in mid-summer, the Southbound lane will be closed down next.

If there's one plus side to summers being a little too short, it just might be being able to fully use those newly improved roadways.

"We can't wait to get more business," said Gerbhardt.

This year also marks the end of the I-35 Mega Project in the Duluth area, which has been going on since 2010.

That project will be finished in about two weeks.

Starting at the end of May, another stretch of I-35 will be reduced to single lane travel between Scanlon and Esko for resurfacing.

The project will repair any cracks in the road.

That single lane interstate travel is expected to last until October.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike