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Mo. 179 project to finish more than a month early

Mo. 179 project to finish more than a month early

October 1st, 2010 in News

Businesses have complained that the road construction on Missouri Boulevard has hampered sales. Crews are ahead of schedule to complete the project.

Photo by Stephen Brooks

It's not just drivers who are eager for the Missouri Boulevard interchange with Missouri 179 and U.S. 50 West to be finished.

For area business owners, this year's work rebuilding the interchange has been an inconvenience to their customers, and some have avoided the area.

The good news for the businesses is that the contractor of the $6.8 million project, Columbia-based Emery Sapp and Sons Inc., is far ahead of schedule. The project could be finished, with all lanes of traffic open to motorists, by this time next week.

David Ruprecht, co-owner of the McDonald's where South Ten Mile Drive and Missouri Boulevard meet, said that with profits down by about onethird, the project has had a "huge" impact on his business since work started in March. He's talked with other area business owners who have been hit even harder.

"There's a lot of our loyal customers who we haven't seen, because they're afraid to use" Missouri Boulevard, and because it's been disconnected from Missouri 179, Ruprecht said.

He didn't think the project was needed yet, but said it will be beneficial in the long term.

Kevin Riley, co-owner of Riley Toyota-Scion, said business at his dealership's service department may have been down slightly, but that, overall, the project hasn't affected his sales much.

"It's been kind of tough getting in and out of our store for about a month, but I think John Q. Driver has been cautious," he said.

Steve Kliethermes, coowner of Travel Answers on South Ten Mile Drive, said that, fortunately, most of his customers have been able to do business with them by phone or Internet, so they haven't suffered much. It's been more of an inconvenience for the employees.

"You have to think every night how you can go home and get to work" in the morning, he said. "We have to stay late or leave early."

Despite the inconvenience and loss of business, Ruprecht and other area business owners say that Emery Sapp and Sons has bent over backwards to try to accommodate them.

Ruprecht said the contractor showed up early in the morning to make sure the McDonald's drive was open and accessible to customers. Riley said workers planted sod in front of his business, which he wasn't expecting. Kliethermes said they've aggressively filled potholes around the project area to make driving as smooth as possible.

The project is being paid for through federal stimulus money. It's designed to improve traffic flow through the interchange and it widens Missouri Boulevard from two lanes to four lanes - two in each direction - on both sides of the interchange.

Roger Schwartze, the Missouri Transportation Department's Central District engineer, said the contract requires that all work be completed by Nov. 15. Finishing late would mean fines of $10,000 per day.

But an incentive clause to finish early means a $10,000 daily bonus, for up to seven days. Schwartze said the company is on track to finish next week and get the $70,000 bonus.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for Oct. 14.

Some businesses were fuming Wednesday after initially being told that, even if the project were finished before the ribbon cutting, MoDOT would hold off on opening all lanes until then. But Schwartze assured the businesses that wouldn't be the case.

"We will plan to open the road on that" connector road from 179 to Missouri Boulevard on the west side "as soon as the work is completed," Schwartze said. "We will not wait for the ribbon-cutting. We will adjust where we have the ribbon-cutting."