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Bridge eases traffic jams

Commuters spend less time on road, but does that mean more money for local businesses?
By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Traffic that was once routed through Folsom is now free to travel across the new bridge, easing congestion for commuters. But many historic district merchants say it’s too early to tell if less traffic means more dollars in the cash register. Dorothea’s Christmas owner Marjorie Yohner, located on Sutter Street in Folsom, hasn’t seen much difference in business during the first week the bridge has been open. “(Business) picked up that day (when the bridge opened) in the afternoon,” she said. “It can’t hurt because it will be easier to get here.” Sue Ryan, Folsom’s public information officer, said the city is keeping an eye on traffic flows and believes the new bridge route is doing the job. “We have seen tremendous traffic relief with commuters reporting 15 to 20 minute reductions in travel time,” Ryan said. “Commuters are no longer clogging Riley Street and the Historic District. Traffic is once again moving smoothly.” Mike Jimena, a business owner on Sutter Street, agrees with Ryan’s assessment. “I think it has helped,” he said. “It helped me get to Roseville faster (for a project). You don’t see that traffic log at Riley.” He said foot traffic increased the first week following the bridge’s opening, which was March 28. “There have been more people on Sutter Street the last few days,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the warmer weather of because it’s easier to get here.” B.J. McClintock, an employee at As Time Goes By on Sutter Street, believes it may be too late to resurrect the district. “I think the impact was made when they closed the Folsom Dam road,” she said. “The commuters are very happy, so they are seeing the benefit. Those that come here can find their way here. The damage is already done.” Planet Earth Rising employee Mary Chapman said business has been about the same. The shop is located a few doors up from Riley Street on Sutter. “I personally haven’t noticed a big difference, but it’s new yet,” she said. “People get in habits and it’s hard to break them. Of course, as we speak, people are piling in the door.” A few doors closer to Riley, Wayne Procissi sees the bridge and upcoming historic district redevelopment as positive steps in the right direction. He owns Procissi Cellars, a wine-tasting room and art gallery. “I come down Riley all the time and it’s bad,” he said. “The last two days, traffic was about half. It was by the middle school.” He said his business started declining in September 2008. “I have not seen a difference,” he said. “Is it too early to tell? It’s tough. I’ve been here five years and the first four were great.” He credits loyal customers for keeping his business afloat. “They like my wine,” he said. “I’m the only tasting room for a winemaker around here.” He questions the city’s decision to start the streetscape project over the summer, which will effectively shutdown parts of Sutter Street while the median is removed. “They are going to start working on this street in mid-July,” Procissi said. “They said they’d finish in September (in the 600 block). They said they’d make it as comfortable as possible but what the hell does that mean?” He believes people will see construction on that block and not want to walk up the street. “Now we’re going to get hit. Once people have gotten used to the new bridge opening, they are going to close part of the street,” he said. “Once it’s all finished, it’s going to be great. With the economy we’re in, they should have started now, not in the summer when the tourists are here.” Don Chaddock may be reached at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.