HELENA — Crews have been working on reconstructing Helena’s Rodney Street for much of the summer. That work will bring benefits in the long term, but for now, it’s definitely having an impact on businesses in the area.
Helena Sand and Gravel is the lead contractor for the first phase of the project, on Rodney between 9th Avenue and Broadway. Workers are replacing outdated water and sewer lines, improving curbs, sidewalks and landscaping and adding a smooth new road surface.
The work began on the north side of the project area. Now, most of the area between 6th and 9th Avenues has been repaved, but heavy work is still going on between 6th Avenue and Broadway – a stretch that includes a number of businesses.
Charlie Carson, owner of the B&B Market, says he’s excited about what’s coming.
“It’s been long overdue that Rodney Street’s needed to have this improvement done,” he said. “Our streets have been just terrible, as we all know, but it’s great to see it coming.”
However, having the street torn up hasn’t made it easy for customers to access businesses. Carson said B&B’s sales have been down about 50% during they’ve had construction on the block. He said other businesses he’s talked to have seen similar trends.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “Our tills have been down, and everybody’s struggling, but we’re surviving, we’re getting through it.”
Carson is grateful for the work crews have done to help businesses, like making space on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the market’s regular shipments come in.
B&B has put up signs around the neighborhood, showing they’re still open for business even if people have to go the long way around.
“For the patrons that have made it here – made it through the mud, stepping over every obstacle there is – thank you so much,” said Carson.
Part of the goal is to make Rodney a more inviting street. The reconstructed street will include several dozen newly planted trees, and the city is looking to install about 18 new lighting fixtures with a period design based on what Rodney Street would have had 100 years ago.
Carson said, with this work and projects like the Myrna Loy’s “Rodney Street Is…”, there’s a lot to look forward to for this area.
“Things are really looking up here on Rodney Street,” he said.
Mark Young, the city’s project engineer, said this phase of the Rodney Street project should be mostly complete by mid-October. However, he said the trees will not be planted until next spring.
The total cost of the project so far has been more than $3 million.