Businesses Worry About Broadway Construction

Jan 14, 2014

Correction 1/15/2013: This story has been changed to reflect that construction has  eliminated a center turn lane, not reduced the lanes from four to two as originally stated.

A previous version of this story also incorrectly said construction on all of the projects would take another three years. The current lane closures are scheduled to end in December, Sound Transit expects the Capitol Hill light rail station construction to be complete by spring 2015, and the First Hill streetcar is expected to be operating by the middle of 2014. Work on the First Hill streetcar started affecting Broadway in April of 2012. The story below has been corrected.

For many of us, years of light rail construction on Broadway has been a traffic headache. But some small business owners along Capitol Hill's main street worry that ongoing construction could force them to shut their doors.

On Monday, Sound Transit narrowed Broadway Avenue East to two lanes at East Denny Way as it builds a light rail station. That configuration is scheduled to last until December.

Traffic will be pushed to the east side of the street until July, then to the west side, as workers build a tunnel for pedestrians. Once finished, the idea is for the light rail station to be a people magnet for businesses along Broadway. But the waves of construction – the station, a streetcar and a bike lane – will have disrupted parking on the street for more than two years.

Roshita Shrestha owns the Annapurna Café, which has been swathed in construction barriers for months. She said the lane closures will make it more difficult for customers to find street parking. And while the station will cut down on the need for driving once it's finished, she's still worried: "I have to find out the way to survive that long."

A coffee shop and a teriyaki restaurant nearby have both closed. At the Ace Barber Shop, Uien Ha says the business failures make her worry about her own future. At the Perfect Copy and Print, manager Faustino Lopez says the challenge to his business won't stop when light rail construction ends.

“Once the developers come in and raise rents, other rents are going to go up, our rent’s going to go up," he says. "Because it’s supposed to be a new beneficial thing for the neighborhood.”

Other retailers are moving in to profit from the increase in foot traffic. Lopez points to his new competitor: A big box office store that moved in down the street.