Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Underpass Construction Causes Revenue Loss For Local Businesses

PICO RIVERA — Business owners and residents look forward to the completion of the Passons Boulevard underpass, which over the course of two years has caused increased traffic and revenue loss for neighboring companies.  

Franchises located at the strip mall at the northwest corner of the construction site were hit the hardest. Convenience store chain 7-Eleven has faced a daily 20 percent drop in sales since construction began in December 2010. Rio’s 

Pizza, just two stores down, has also felt the economic impact. Not only have they experienced a 25 percent drop in yearly earnings, but the amount of money spent on gasoline has increased for delivery service. This is due to time consuming detours that were implemented to avoid street and driveway closures. In a week the pizzeria now spends approximately $200 dollars more on fueling delivery cars.
“[Drivers] cry because they have to drive all the way around [to deliver],” said Rio’s Pizza Manager Israel Sanchez. Employees along with residents must take alternative roads to arrive at their destination. Often leading to lengthier travel time and inflated fueling costs.  
Henry Castro, 22, a Pico Rivera resident, deals with this similar occurrence. “I have to wake up extra early just to go to work—in a month I spend about $30 to $35 dollars more on gasoline.” His morning commute costs him money and time as his drive to Downtown Los Angeles for work has jumped from 30 to 45 minutes.  
The Passons Boulevard Underpass began construction on Dec. 6, 2010. The project was created to help with traffic congestion and to improve safer pedestrian walkways. In 2005, an El Rancho high school student was killed while crossing the tracks. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train company was approved the federally funded $43.5 million grant to begin work on the installation of a third railroad track.
In preparation for the construction approximately 12 homes were demolished as well as the bordering Rivera Villa apartment complex. Homeowners received the market value of their properties to relocate under eminent domain.

Prior to construction consultants went out to develop environmental reports, which analyzed how traffic might be affected. They worked to clearly define lanes and detour routes, synchronize intersections and develop residential access.  
Three outreach programs were provided to deal with concerns of nearby residents. Flyers were distributed to homes within a one-mile radius of the site to inform about the awaited project.
Local news has steadily kept up with updates on the construction to keep the city aware of its progress; Residence also have the option of calling in to an available hotline to inquire about any questions they may have in regards to the project. The city is doing what they can to keep open communication with the community.
Although residents and businesses have seen an increase of traffic, Public Works Department Associate Engineer Jose Loera said there were, “No trouble areas reported by police.” The biggest concern would be major cross streets adjacent to Passons Boulevard, however rises in car collisions have not been reported.  
A noise abatement study was also done to measure noise level due to a “shoofly” or temporary track built 20 to 25 feet away from homes. The temporary track was put into place in order to excavate and build wooden beams for utilities. About 11 to 15 homes were compensated with sound proofing of their houses to lessen the loud noises from trains passing.  
The underpass was set to open by mid July of this year. However delays have pushed the deadline back to a one-lane opening by Oct. 10, per contract. The contractor has been given 400 days to construct, but over the course of the project has faced non-work days due to rain and permission delays.  
Storm drain channel reconstruction and utility approvals have taken the greatest amount of time. Verizon Communications Inc. took a year and a half to approve the design and relocation of fiber optic cables that would be built on either side of Passons Boulevard. Time Warner Inc. on the other hand took approximately six months to come to an agreement on the placement of their facilities.  
Cimk Chang, an employee at the local Donut shop, believes a part of the delays were due to a lack of workers constructing the site. “Only four or five people were working at the beginning, now they are hiring more people,” Chang said.
Now that the project is coming to an end the community is looking forward to having things back as they were. “I’m hopeful business will go back to normal,” said 7-Eleven Manager Nirmal Singh.

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