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N4T Investigators: Bad business

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Tucson – Greg Seader owns Jethro’s Cafe on East Broadway Boulevard. The Broadway East road improvement project has been going on right in front of his restaurant.

“I just don’t make any money anymore,” Seader told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “It’s all about surviving and breaking even.”

Seader said the road work has caused a 40 percent drop in business over the past year or so. “Both customers and employees have a heck of a time getting into work now. Because they get confused. Nobody knows where to turn, where the access is. And it’s just been miserable the last year.”

J.J.Esquibel owns “Wings over Broadway” across the street from “Jethro’s. He says the roadwork has caused a 40 percent decline in his business as well. When we visited the restaurant one day last week during lunchtime,  only two customers were there.

“A lot of people just avoid the area,” Esquibel said. “They don’t want to be driving through the construction. It’s really been affecting my lunches because when you have a limited amount of time to enjoy your lunch, people just don’t want to deal with the traffic.”

The roadwork extends about two miles from Camino Seco to Houghton. Among the improvements: widening the road to four lanes, adding sidewalks, bike lanes, a curbed, landscaped median, and extensive underground infrastructure improvements.

Work began in September 2018. The same construction company did road improvement at Valencia and kolb, near the new Amazon warehouse. That job was finished in August.  For about eight months the two jobs over-lapped. Some business owners on E. Broadway believe because Amazon will bring more money to the city, the E. Broadway job was given lower priority.

Esquibel said, “I’m not Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO), I’m not Amazon. But what we are, we’re Tucson. So we deserve to be taken care of also.”

Greg Orsini is the engineering project manager with the city’s transportation department. He told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “You know, business can suffer during construction.”

We asked Orsini is the Valencia and Kolb job near Amazon was made a higher priority. “I do not believe so,” he said. “I mean both jobs are on track, well their job finished on time and our Broadway East job is on track to finish on time as well. So I don’t believe one job would have got preferential treatment.”

Actually, the Broadway East project is a month behind schedule. City officials blame that on rain, not preferential treatment for Amazon. They say the job will be completed in February. And they say the project near Amazon was quicker because it involved a lot less work.

Orsini said, “It’s a painful part, the actual construction activity, but we believe when it’s done it’s going to be a great benefit to all the users. And that’s not just motorists, it’s also bicyclists, pedestrians, and the businesses and residences in the area.”

The two projects are a joint venture of the Regional Transportation Authority and the city. The $2.1 billion plan was approved by Pima County voters in 2006. We’ll stay on top of this to see if the Broadway East project is indeed finished in February.

If you have a story you’d like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520- 955-4444.

Matthew Schwartz

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