Diverted I-5 traffic no boon to business

by: Frank Field Updated:

Owner of Baby Bo-Peep, a consignment shop in Mount Vernon, said sales have gone up since the bridge collapsed.

BURLINGTON, Wash. - Seventy thousand vehicles a day that would normally go over the I-5 bridge are now routed onto local roads like Riverside Drive in Burlington. But it has been a blessing and a curse for area businesses.

Businesses owners along Riverside Drive in Burlington are pleased to get the exposure to all that traffic. But it's not translating into big bucks for all of them yet.

Synergy Salon regulars have been cancelling hair appointments because customers don't want to sit in the slow-moving traffic. It can take an extra 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the time of day, to get from the north side of the Skagit River to the south side.

"It is pretty crazy outside," said Bryanne Garcia, the receptionist at Synergy Salon. "There's tons of cars going by and there's tons of semis and trucks and all that. And we normally don't have that many semis going by."

Down the street at Baby Bo-Peep's consignment shop, sales are up. Owner Heather Wilder said drivers who didn't know it existed are pulling off to shop. But there's a downside, too. Wilder said her regular customers aren't bringing in new items for consignment, and that has hurt her inventory. Normally she gets 25 items a day, but the day after the bridge collapsed, she got two.

"Some people are just kinda staying home and waiting for it to blow over," she said, adding that she hopes customers discover there are alternate routes to her store.

State transportation officials said they're trying to get traffic lights on surface streets re-timed to keep things moving.

"We don't have the alternate routes that can handle the kind of capacity that Interstate 5 can handle," said WSDOT spokesman Bart Treece. "It's not the most ideal because I-5 is the best route for that capacity. But we need to get I-5 back in business, absolutely."

It's only been a couple of days since the bridge collapsed, cutting off that important corridor. But the business owners KIRO 7 reporter Frank Field talked to are wondering how long they'll have to deal with the traffic. And whether they'll have to adapt how they do businesses to survive.