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Project Closes Santa Fe Street
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Downtown business owners learned recently that the second - or beautification - phase of redevelopment has begun and Santa Fe Street between Second and Third streets and between Third and Fourth streets will be closed to traffic 24 hours a day until late December.

The bright spot is that Third Street will remain open across Santa Fe and pedestrians can continue to use Santa Fe's sidewalks and crosswalks to gain access to the stores, which will remain open.

The aim is to get most of the east-west construction finished before Christmas and the rainy season and then tackle the longer north-south Third Street in the spring, Ron Smith of Sierra Nevada Construction explained to the store owners in a quickly called meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24.

Parking for storeowners and their customers will be difficult, the city's Economic Development Director Tim Ogden and Public Works Director Dave Melilli acknowledged. But the city has moved its employee parking comprising 20 to 30 cars to the Del Rio Theater lot at Third and Atchison streets and striped about 16 slots in the future Plaza del Rio for public parking for the duration of the work.

Melville said he was neither for nor against storeowners parking in the alleys at the rear of their stores but cautioned them against blocking access for Gilton's garbage trucks, which caused problems during the first phase of construction.

"I was surprised, taken aback is the word, to learn just today the street will be closed tomorrow," said Karen Bickford of the Designs By Karen florist shop, noting she, like other owners, need to plan ahead for deliveries.

She also said the street lights in her block have been off for several days, dusk will soon be occurring by 5 p.m. and the darkness is a safety hazard for pedestrians.

"I appreciated the construction foreman coming around to talk to us today," added a representative of Serendipity Day Spa. " I run a spa you know so I'd like to know about the noise, jack hammering for instance, a few days ahead.

Smith commented jack hammering could start as early as that Friday and a grinding machine would go to work the following Wednesday.

Smith said his company is experienced in tackling construction in this way, a bit at a time; his workmen will talk daily with business owners and try to accommodate their needs in every way possible.

Each sidewalk will be dug up and repaired in two strips, with the half nearest the street being torn up first, because federal law requires there be some access for the handicapped at all times.

Melilli noted workers would have large sheets of plywood and metal available to place over unpaved ground if necessary.

Queried whether there will be any period around Christmas free of construction when city groups could stage a seasonal event, Smith said he doesn't know at this time. It depends on how fast construction moves along, unanticipated problems with underground utilities and especially the weather.

Contractors placed traffic barriers and no parking signs on Santa Fe between Second and Fourth streets on Thursday, then removed them for the Greenride Event on Saturday afternoon and restored them Monday.