Businesses hope to recover as M51 traffic flows two ways ahead of Fourth of July

NOW: Businesses hope to recover as M51 traffic flows two ways ahead of Fourth of July

NILES, Mich.-- Work continues along M51 in the Niles area, also known as 11th Street. For four whole weeks, since Memorial Day, traffic could only go north, and some business owners feared they wouldn't survive. But this week, it's finally moving both ways again.

This is a huge relief for business owners along the corridor, like those at Green Stem Provisioning.

"It means a lot," said Green Stem Brand Manager Katie Lynch Lindgren. "It means that before our busiest holiday of the year, we have traffic flow back going north and south, not only northbound, which is really big for the businesses on the corridor as well as us."

She said she's thrilled two lanes of traffic are back open but says they got late notice again for the update. It comes after not being aware that traffic was going down to one lane for four whole weeks until right before another holiday weekend.

"We were unable to communicate with our clientele to discover those changes in time," she said. "That happened over Memorial Day weekend."

And the results of that traffic closure, she said, were catastrophic.

"Those first few weeks hit us like a crash test dummy hitting a wall at 60 miles an hour," Lindgren said.

She said they were forced to make drastic cuts, lay off workers, restructure the business and adjust their menu. She previously told ABC57, she thought this meant the end of their family business.

"We all really made a really great attempt to try to survive through it, and luckily everybody has," Lindgren said.

A few blocks down, the owner of Bill's Appliances, Bill Yoho, feels a similar struggle, also forced to cut hours for his employees.

"Our business probably took a two-thirds hit, half to two-thirds, right in there," Yoho said. "It's been really rough to get people in because the traffic, just, either so congested or they can't turn in, all different reasons. It's really affected us."

Heavy construction is ongoing, and traffic is still slow-moving in the meantime. MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa says two lanes of traffic will be open during the remainder of the construction.

"As promised, we were able to finish the work we needed to do that required us to have a directional detour, directional closure of M51 north of US12 in Niles," Schirripa said. "We got that done before the July 4 holiday, which was our goal."

He said the full project is now set to be completed by Thanksgiving.

"The roughest timeline is we'll be done this year," he said.

Now that she can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, Lindgren said she's confident Green Stem can recover.

"We want these roads to be fixed, we've been advocates for the corridor being taken care of, so, we're really excited about that," Lindgren said. "It was just the one-way traffic and the communication that we weren't able to even prepare for as a business that made such a dramatic impact."

The Office of the Governor announced Tuesday it expects roughly 2.6 million Michiganders to travel by car for the Fourth of July holiday. To accommodate this, between Wednesday and Monday, 105 out of 174 road projects statewide will have lane restrictions removed.

More information about this can be found here

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