The intersection of Fairview Avenue and Cole Road will be lovely once the eight-month construction project there wraps up, said Mike Welch, owner of Play It Again Sports.
But in the meantime, the roadwork has choked traffic, limited access to parking lots and crimped business. Welch’s store, in the Westgate Shopping Center on the northwest corner of the intersection, is in the epicenter.
“So far, sales are down about 20 percent,” he said. “I think we will be challenged for the entire summer.”
Big O Tires, on the southeast side of the intersection, has also lost business, Operations Manager Toni Laursen said the store is tough for westbound drivers on Fairview to access, especially during rush hour. Sales are down 7 percent compared with last spring.
Big O’s large parking lot makes it a good destination for travel trailers needing tires. With tourism season starting — and with crews slated to soon switch from closing the northern-most lanes on Fairview to closing the the southern-most lanes — Laursen said trailer owners may choose more accessible businesses.
“Right now, we’re hanging in there,” she said. “But they are going to close my side about the time travel trailer season hits, and nobody will bring their trailers to me.”
Cars will move ‘more smoothly’
When the work is completed, motorists will be able to turn left from two turn lanes from all four directions. Until now, there has been a single left-turn lane at each corner.
There will be a dedicated right-turn lane at each corner. New bicycle lanes will be installed on the portion of Fairview being reconstructed. The new configuration will allow U-turns.
“We anticipate this is going to move traffic a lot more smoothly through there,” said Nicole Du Bois, spokeswoman for the Ada County Highway District.
The work is taking place in stages, with different road sections affected in different months.
South of Fairview, North Cole Road was closed for three months early this year to replace a portion of the underground Rust Lateral irrigation canal. That project needed to be completed before the canal filled with water this season.
Crews have been working to rebuild the portion of Cole north of Fairview since March. In late June, work will move back south of Fairview to rebuild that section.
Since mid-April, Fairview traffic in both directions has been reduced to one lane each between North Eldorado Street, in front of Idaho Pizza Co. west to West Westland Drive, at the west end of the Westgate Shopping Center. The north side of Fairview west of Cole has been closed for rebuilding of the roadway.
When construction shifts back to Cole Road south of Fairview, the two lanes of Fairview traffic will shift to the north side of the street. The work is scheduled to be completed by late summer.
Papa Murphy’s forced to move
All businesses remain open. The highway district has put up signs to direct motorists to driveways leading to shops on Fairview and Cole. Other signs warn motorists there’s no access to Cole Road itself from those parking lots.
“We’ve been working extensively with all of the businesses in that area for quite awhile, leading up to construction and through construction,” DuBois said. “We’ve been in constant contact with them, and they’ve been part of the decisions that have been made.”
The project displaced one business, Papa Murphy’s, formerly located at the northeast corner of Fairview and Cole. The take-and-bake pizza shop moved to the south side of the street and three blocks east on Fairview. The highway district bought the property in November and provided relocation assistance, Du Bois said.
DuBoise said a problem cropped up when road construction began: Motorists drove through a business parking lot to sidestep detours. When the portion of Cole Road was closed south of Fairview, many Cole drivers heading north toward Fairview cut through the Albertsons parking lot on the southeast corner. Construction crews reported a near-constant line of cars.
“That can be very dangerous,” for shoppers walking to and from stores, Du Bois said.
The Boise Police Department sent officers to monitor the situation and encourage drivers to used the marked detour route or face getting a citation for using a parking lot to avoid stopping at a stop sign or traffic signal.
An upside: At least one business got noticed
For some businesses, the roadwork has been more of an inconvenience than an impediment to sales.
Orion Jones, owner of Jones Sew and Vac on the southwest side of the intersection, said his business has declined only slightly. His customers are driving for specific items not readily available elsewhere, making his store a destination. The construction provided an unexpected benefit: A few customers told Jones they noticed his store because they were backed up waiting to cross the intersection.
“I feel like the customers are more annoyed than anything,” he said. “I was worried it would be worse.”
The Axiom Fitness gym on the northeast side of the intersection is also doing fine, in part because regular customers have three other locations in the Valley to use, said Dale Kjaer, vice president of sales.
“Certainly, the access and convenience is a bit more painful, but most of our members view it as a temporary situation and continue to access the club on a regular basis,” he said.
Once this was Idaho’s busiest intersection
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Fairview and Cole intersection was the busiest in Idaho. Today, the intersection does not appear among the state’s 12 busiest intersections, said Nicole Du Bois, spokeswoman for the Ada County Highway District. Still, 21,000 to 23,000 vehicles cross the intersection on Cole daily, and about 31,000 vehicles pass by on Fairview.