George Washington Way will go from a five-lane thoroughfare in downtown Richland to two lanes this summer as motorists make their way through a construction zone.
The $1.25 million repaving and resurfacing project on the city's heaviest traveled street will force residents, tourists and about 1,200 daily commuters to negotiate slowdowns, temporary lane changes and detours into September.
It also is expected to bring a major slowdown to the business district fronting George Washington Way.
"I've been here 17 years and would like to make it 18, but maybe not," said Dan Korte, owner of Quizno's at 950 George Washington Way and directly across the street from city hall.
Korte's business was one of more than 100 contacted in recent weeks by Trish Herron, the city's business and tourism development specialist. She sought to explain the project and work with businesses to allay their concerns.
Herron said she will continue to run interference for the businesses as the construction project proceeds.
"The city is interested in their business and cares that they survive as much as possible," she said.
But Korte at Quizno's, and Rory Asay, who manages the Wendy's restaurant next door, expect a big drop in customer traffic this summer.
"We were looking forward to a good summer, now we're expecting a 30 percent drop," Asay said.
"I guarantee it will be 30 percent or 40 percent. I may have to just shut it down," Korte told the Herald while racing to make sandwiches for customers during Thursday's rush hour.
Traffic during non-commuting hours will be funneled through one lane in each direction.
Julie Nelson, Richland's project engineer for the job, said the contract also calls for installing new curbs and gutters, and replacing portions of the sidewalk.
The project area also will have various species of maple trees planted on both sides of George Washington Way, with decorative stamped and colored concrete borders separating the sidewalk from the curb.
Some trees in the project area will be removed because they have grown too large and are no longer appropriate in the downtown, Nelson said.
Nelson said the portion of George Washington Way being rebuilt hasn't had a new surface laid down for more than 20 years.
Work will begin in June and is expected to take 31/2 months.
Two intersections -- at Lee Boulevard and Swift Boulevard -- will be closed to all traffic for 72 hours two times during the project, Nelson said.
Each intersection will be rebuilt because the grade has settled, which means water collects and damages the road base.
Nelson said those intersections will be closed for round-the-clock reconstruction on weekends when Hanford workers have a Friday off.
Richland's Business License Reserve Fund will spend $160,000, which will pay for most of the improvements along the sidewalks, Nelson said.
This week, city crews began pulling new cable at intersections on George Washington Way. The cable will provide connections for upgraded traffic controls. The project also gives the city a chance to install underground fiber conduit along George Washington Way for future expansion of the city's broadband system.
For the rest of this month, rush-hour commuters should expect lane closures at Lee and Swift boulevards and at Knight Street because of the cable installation.
"We've taken a hard look at as many issues as we can foresee, and we'll make adjustments as necessary," Nelson said.
Nelson said the city has assured business owners in the affected area that their driveways will be kept open at all times, except when curbs and gutters are installed. The contractor will use quick-setting concrete at those locations.
"The contractor has to maintain those driveways," Nelson said.
Korte, the Quizno's owner, said a better plan would be to do the work at night when there would be less traffic and most businesses would be closed.
Businesses with multiple entrances, such as Sterling's restaurant, Blockbuster and Bank of the West, won't be affected as much.
"It'll be an inconvenience, but not too much. People will find a way to get to the bank," said Lyndee Turnbull, customer service manager at Bank of the West.
Nelson said the Cool Desert Nights event in June won't be affected much. The parade route includes the construction zone and access to Howard Amon Park for a street dance is in that area, but the contractor will keep enough lanes clear to handle the demand, Nelson said.
But Asay said Wendy's can't escape the worst of what is to come.
Wendy's has one entrance and one exit, which also serves the drive-through order window. Each access will be closed when construction reaches that point on George Washington Way, essentially closing off Wendy's to customers.
Even worse, Asay said, the center left-turn lane will become a traffic lane during commuting hours. That will make it difficult for southbound customers to turn into Wendy's during dinner.
But he's quick to point out all businesses along George Washington Way will be affected.
"This is going to hurt everybody here," Asay said.