Louise Avenue business owners concerned about construction

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The City of Sioux Falls announced a $37.9 million dollar construction project for 2017, which includes large parts of the city's and state's busiest roads on Louise Avenue.

The project is set to begin any day, as long as Mother Nature holds out. If the weather stays nice crews can begin some of the initial work, such as temporary signals and other off-road work as early as next week, and there is an incentive for finishing early.

Sioux Falls plans to reconstruct 40 to 50 miles of roads in the city, but Louise Avenue, specifically from 41st Street to 49th Street is its flagship project, since it plans to widen the road from five lanes to six and add an easement and a turn lanes. Most of the project is expected to last from sometime in May until late August, but parts of it may not be completed until November.

That extended period of time can wreak havoc for drivers. It's also the busiest road in the city, lined with dozens of shops and restaurants, some of which are small business owners concerned about their bottom line.

"We have a place here that's hard to get into anyways, so construction, three lanes of traffic is going to be very hard for us," explained Janelle Leuning, owner of Erbert & Gerbert's Sandwich Shop. "It's going to be very hard for customers to get in and out of our store. Even more so with the construction and the new road they're putting in."

Leuning said summer is the restaurant's busiest time of the year and she expects to take a hit as a result of the construction.

"It's going to really hurt us at a bad time. That's when all the kids are out of school -- and college kids -- its just a really hard time to have it happen," she said. "But is there a good time?"

But the small business owner said she understands it has to be done.

"It's bad. I mean, the potholes are bad and everyone knows that, so that's probably just the price we [Sioux Falls] pay for growing," she explained.

Leuning said she would plan to run some "construction specials" to try to bring business into the restaurant while the work is getting done.

Next door, her neighbors at Fast Auto Wash said they'd let Erbert & Gerbert's customers and employees use their back entry to get to the restaurant, which isn't necessarily convenient, but is a way to get business in without the construction hassle.

"We may have to block off one of our vacuum lanes so people can use that," said Ron Winer, manager at Fast Auto Wash. "We have to help each other. We all can get through it together."

The Fast Auto Wash also said, that for some of the work, they may need to close for up to a week.

"We'll have to be closed down a couple of days because they're going to be using our lot out front and it's going to be just about impossible for traffic to get in and out," he explained.

Fast Auto Wash said summer tends to be slower for them, since most people take advantage of the nice weather, washing their own cars and they also don't need to wash them as often because of the lack of salt, sand and snow making things a mess. Winer said they'll take advantage of the closure to make some upgrades in the auto wash and even though it's not busy season, they'll still take a hit.

"Anytime you have to close, it affects you," he said.

While 41st and Louise will probably create a headache for many, another spot -- just down the road -- may be even more inconvenient. The west side of 49th at Louise Avenue will be closed for some time from late May or early June until at least August for major reconstruction.