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Memorial to stay open
AP BusinessForum
Project manager Matthew Barrow talks to the assembled business people abut rerouting Memorial Drive. - photo by Alena Parker / Coastal Courier
It's supposed to take just over a year to rebuild and realign Memorial Drive and Washington Street and traffic will be affected, but never blocked, business owners and their employees were assured Thursday.
The assurances came at a forum on the Memorial Drive realignment project, where they could also voice concerns.
"At no point will traffic be completely prohibited...there will always be access," project manager Matthew Barrow said.
"I think they answered all my concerns and question in a very timely manner," Barbara Meador, who works for VIP Office Supply store, said.
Barrow said the project would take "400 calendar days from start to finish," and "the first road closures will be for a 10 month span."
While it will take stopping traffic for some of the construction, Barrow assures that there will be detours.
No hard date was given for the start of construction. Funding is already in place and contractors are now only waiting for the go-ahead notice from the Department of Transportation to begin work.
When complete, the corridor from Highway 84 to just outside of Fort Stewart will have a 16-foot median, between 2 two-lane roadways, with a traffic circle in the downtown area. The median will be lighted with park benches on the shoulder.
"When this project's finished, all dry utilities will be underground," Barrow said.
He described how people would be able to enjoy the scenery more without poles and wires overhead.
Business representatives were guaranteed the "least impact on business as far as services are concerned."
While Meador said her questions were answered, she did still have concerns over the traffic circle.
It could "make a lot of anxiety to get in and trying to get out," she said.
The realignment also moves the major traffic corridor in the area away from her store.
"Once the project is complete, the main traffic won't be on (what is now) Memorial drive," the businesswoman said. "It'll affect sales and people coming in the store...people will have to go out of the way."
But Meador said the store is willing to make the necessary changes.
"We're positive and we'll work with the city to adapt," she said.
Daniel Clark, Promotional Products manager, questioned how the project would affect accessibility to his business.
"With the street being renovated behind us, I didn't know if we would have to move our store front from Memorial over to the new street," he said. "We've seen the drawing and everything, but we didn't really understand the impact it was going to have on us."  
City Manager Billy Edwards said he would discuss Clark's questions after the form.
"We pulled it up on satellite and he showed me how the road was going to go," Clark said that discussion. "He showed me the city's plans for our store front, so we don't have to make any changes."
"It's definitely going to affect the business because of the road closures, but it's not going to have a major impact on it, mainly because I don't depend on so much walk-in traffic."  
Barrow said the new traffic circle and roads will still be accessible to 18-wheelers and school buses, addressing a question from Rick Evans, school board director of maintenance and operations.
Barrow encouraged commercial traffic to use other routes, but said he understands buses and trucks must be accommodated.
HDDA director Vicki Davis encouraged business people to share the information they received at the forum.
"But that information shouldn't be to avoid downtown," Davis said
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