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Businesses affected by MLK Underpass project

Businesses affected by MLK Underpass project
YAKIMA, Wash. – It was only months ago that work finally finished on Yakima's giant Lincoln underpass project. And no sooner than things return to normal, another underpass project gets started. This time it's on Martin Luther King Boulevard. And even before work begins, business owners worry it will drive away customers.

It was a headache that never seemed to go away. When the Lincoln underpass project went over budget, drivers not only got annoyed, but avoided the area all together. And soon it led to plunging profits to nearby stores.

"How much of your business dropped because of that?" asked KIMA.
"I did see at least 20 to 30 percent in sales," said Carlos Ramirez, owner of Mex Cell y Mas.

A loss of sales hurt Carlos Ramirez's bottom line. He said even his loyal customers veered off for awhile and there's a chance it could happen yet again. With the MLK project underway, Carlos and other business owners fear history may repeat itself.

"They ended up going somewhere else closer, just to avoid the construction," said Carlos.

Shauna Stenwall, owner of a coffee stand on First Street said construction projects near businesses don't make things easy. Detours and inconveniences become common.

"It just seemed like it was really bottleneck and people having a really hard time getting through or have to wait at the lights," said Shauna.

But, a little bit of inconvenience could eventually lead to a good thing. She said with a growing population in Yakima, sometimes road work is a necessary evil.

"It's an inconvenience to everybody when these things are happening but in the long process when it's done and over with, the roads are nice and it ends up being a little nice go-through," said Shauna.

Carlos said he lost customers during the construction on Lincoln, but more came in after it was completed.

"Later on, it will be better when everything's fixed, so now I think it was worth it," said Carlos.

Business owners KIMA spoke with hope that they'll be no delays and that the project will be completed as expected in the fall of 2014.

Yakima said the project is made to improve driver and pedestrian safety and improve response time for emergency responders.
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