Red Wing businesses welcome Main Street lane switch
RED WING — The big flip is done. Phase two construction on U.S. Highway 61 as it crosses through downtown Red Wing reached the halfway point Wednesday evening, with the work being done going from the south-side lanes of Main Street to the north-side lanes.
Those businesses along U.S. Highway 61 between Broad and Potter streets — no matter which side of the street they are on — are happy to hit the milestone.
"We're thrilled," said Sara Skyberg, owner of Uffda Scandinavian Shoppe, which sits on the south side of Main Street. "It makes us much more accessible."
Skyberg said her shop has been blocked off on the south side because its main path for accessibility from the other side has been limited to only Bush Street. And while the city and Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce have worked to keep the sidewalks open, the foot traffic has definitely been down.
Now, though, traffic can access the shop directly from Main Street no matter which cross street is blocked, and within a week or two the on-street parking will return to Main Street, hopefully making her business even more accessible.
The increased foot traffic showed up right away for Red Wing Confectionary, said manager Jessica Stemen. While a back entrance through the alley has always been available, only locals seemed to know that was there. "Tourists don't know about it," she said. But the foot traffic has already improved today."
Cory Bienfang, project manager of Bolton & Menk, said getting the lane switch done this week was vital to keeping on schedule. "August isn't all that far away," he said, referring to the completion date near Aug. 12. "This is a benefit to the south-side businesses, it makes it more open for them."
"Having this switch happen will relieve some stress our businesses on the south side have been feeling," said Patty Brown, executive director of the chamber.
During the remainder of construction, Plum Street should stay open until work on that intersection is done, Beinfang said. "There's a lot of sidewalk work left to go," he said. "There's likely going to be some holes here and there (on the sidewalks)."
At Red's Savoy Pizza, an eatery on Bush Street about a half a block south of Main Street, having that intersection open and better access will be a big boon, said Manager Kayley Kroll. "It was reopened a few weeks ago, briefly," she said. "In that week, we saw a huge increase in traffic."
In fact, the business has only been open since around Christmas, she said, and during that week when people could turn from Main to Bush street, customers came in who had been unaware the business was there.
Like the pizza place, Red Wing Olive Oils & Vinegars has known nothing but construction since it opened. "Next year will be our first without Main Street construction," said Joseph Morgan, owner.
Morgan said that with the bump outs for the sidewalks, he hoped traffic would treat Main Street less like a racetrack. "If this project slows traffic through downtown Red Wing on 61, I think it's a good thing," he said.
While all the intersections are open along the south side of Main Street, the limited access along the north side of Main Street could cause some headaches for those businesses.
Ashley Ryan with the St. James Hotel on the north side of Main Street said getting to the hotel might become a problem for the next six weeks until construction is done. Still, getting closer to the end of construction is enough to make the hotel happy.
"We're not as concerned as the businesses across the street because we have our parking ramp," Ryan said. "But our only entrance is through Broad Street. We had to make sure the signs on the road were correct."