With the street improvement project in full swing on U.S. Hwy. 71, it has been challenging lately to connect with several local businesses and one house of faith.

Business pulling through

“I think the city and everybody involved tried to do their best in letting us know how the construction was going to work out,” said Jason Jalbert, owner of Park Rapids Ford. “Has it gone exactly as we all would like? Absolutely not. But in the grand scheme of things, it is going to better our welcome on the south side of the community.”

Jalbert said the workers have been “extremely helpful when there’s been a concern” and that from the start, “they have said that they want to keep an open dialog with everyone affected by this. We’ve all had the opportunity on Thursday mornings to sit down and have a sounding board to voice our concerns or ask questions. They’ve done a very good job in listening and reacting to concerns.”

His dealership and Park Rapids Building Supply both have signs off Main Ave. directing customers into their back entrance.

“We’re making do,” said Jalbert. “To say it hasn’t affected our business wouldn’t be accurate, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re doing the things necessary to make the best out of the situation.”

He said extra effort has been promised to maintain the unpaved section of Main Ave. to accommodate back-gate visitors.

“People are finding us,” he said, “especially on the service side. That exposure that we had on Hwy. 71, with the view, we’ve missed that the last few months.”

He expressed hope that the improvements will rejuvenate interest in the South Hwy. 71 corridor.

“It’s going to be a great improvement,” said Jalbert. “I hope it attracts people to be more interested in developing down here and doing business on South 71.”

Regarding how his neighbors are dealing with the project, Jalbert said, “I think it affects us all in different ways, because no two of us have the same type of business. That being said, I think most of the businesses just want to get through it and have it done, and move on.”

Church little affected

“The construction guys keep us posted on what’s happening,” said Kelly Maninga, administrative coordinator at Faithbridge Church. “They’ve said if we have a funeral, they’ll not work close to the church. Overall, for us, it has not been a real big deal. Part of it is, Sunday’s our main day and they’re not working.”

While the highway looks like a trench filled with dirt and equipment, getting to the church may call for flexibility.

“We’ve been keeping our congregation up to date,” said Maninga. “We do have a map up on the website. We’ve been encouraging people to take Pleasant Ave. and come in from the back side.”

Those coming to church from the south, he said, are advised either to come up County 6 or to take County 28 (160th St./129th Ave.) to State Hwy. 34, then circle back on Pleasant Ave.

He acknowledged that the church is fortunate to have a paved street to its southwest – Industrial Park Rd. However, Main Ave., running behind the properties on the west side of the construction zone, is unpaved and posted as closed to through traffic.

Upon completion, the project “will move our south entrance a little ways to the west,” said Maninga. “We’ll lose our frontage road out front because the frontage road will stop where our property starts.”

There will still be an entrance to the north end of the church’s parking lot, he said.

“For a few people, that will change how they get to church, but nothing major,” said Maninga. “The majority of our people already use the north entrance. It will just look a little different.”

Based on his experience using roundabouts in Detroit Lakes and Grand Rapids, Maninga predicted the roundabout being built at Hwy. 71 and Industrial Park Rd./Crocus Hill St. will help traffic flow better.

“It will be nice to have sidewalks coming all the way down,” he added. “I’m excited to see how the final project will look. I think, in the end, it’s a win.”

Jalbert agreed, adding that he understands the inconvenience is “what it takes to get these types of projects done.”