Throughout Springfield, there are many ongoing road-improvement projects. One major project is the Jefferson Streetscape project between St. Louis and Walnut Streets. This project has had a large impact on the local businesses near the site.
According to the City of Springfield’s press release, this project is funded by a one-fourth-cent capital improvement tax and a one-eighth-cent transportation sales tax.
“The Jefferson Avenue Streetscape project will extend the downtown streetscape look to this segment of Jefferson, with upgraded ramps and sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with roadway improvements, stormwater infrastructure and lighting. A new traffic signal with pedestrian facilities will be installed at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and St. Louis Street,” the City of Springfield said March 6 in a press release. “The project will also include upgrades to electrical facilities in Jubilee Park to aid in future downtown event needs.”
Prairie Pie is a small shop full of warm inviting smells located at 307 S. Jefferson Ave. They serve handmade sweet pies and pot pies made with an all-butter crust. Prairie Pie Owner Eleanor Taylor says they are right in the midst of all of the street construction and it is impacting her business.
“This is a city-led project that has impacted my business negatively as well as my husband's business Druff’s, one block north of Prairie Pie,” Taylor said.
Taylor says that she has contacted the city various times explaining that she was not reached out to in a proper way.
“This is my livelihood. How was I supposed to prepare for my business to become so inaccessible? The project planners did not factor us in,” Taylor said.
Taylor has sent several emails to the Public Works Department explaining the issues this project has caused for her business and employees.
“Due to construction my staff is parking further away and walking to their vehicles at night with no street lights. After 18 days of no street lights, power was restored; this took multiple emails and a phone call to the Public Works Department office to restore power,” Taylor wrote in an email to public works. “Unfortunately, I never received a return call. I can’t help but think that if this was not a city project your requirements for the worksite would be a little different: clear pedestrian walkways, proper signage for open businesses and pressure to move the project along.”
However, the city said this is not the case. Kristen Milam, communication coordinator for the City of Springfield, said that they reach out to multiple businesses in an area for public comment before any project starts, and the Jefferson Avenue project was no different.
“Public Works Department works closely with businesses, sometimes for years before a construction project even starts, to discuss and acquire easements, determine how to direct traffic flow and access both during and after construction and often consult with them on how to prepare their site for upcoming construction,” Milam said.
Milam said that they have offered clear communication about the project, its goals and deadlines, and they continue to provide updates whenever any changes arise with the project.
Between May 4 and May 8, Jefferson Avenue at Walnut Street was closed to through traffic. The city notified the public with a press release on May 3. In the press release, they explained the timeline for when the roads will be closed and its impacts.
“This closure will prohibit traffic from turning westbound onto Walnut from Jefferson and southbound onto Jefferson from Walnut. All eastbound and westbound crossing traffic on Walnut at Jefferson continues to be prohibited and is expected to remain in place until fall,” said the press release. “All businesses in the work zone remain open.”
Taylor said that she understands most of her concerns will not be addressed with this specific project. But, she hopes that her concerns will be taken into consideration whenever the city plans streetscaping and roadwork projects in the future.
“I am highly aware that nothing will be done to improve the current situation on South Jefferson,” Taylor wrote in an email to the Public Works Department. “Just hoping that the city takes my comments into consideration for future projects.”
In Taylor’s series of emails to the city, she included different suggestions from other cities and how they deal with large road infrastructure projects. In one email she attached photographs from New York City construction projects. Taylor said she believed that those pedestrian pathways could be implemented in Springfield.
Regardless of if any new pedestrian pathways are installed for this Jefferson Avenue project, the anticipated completion date of this project is fall 2023. However, that date could be pushed back due to inclement weather or construction delays.
Follow Desiree Nixon on Twitter, @DesireeNixon17
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