News / Calgary

Business owner conflicted by 17th Avenue construction

It’s been three months since Ferdinand Asturias has seen half of his regular customers at Waves Coffee House on 17th Avenue.

Since Alberta’s economy dropped alongside the price of oil last winter, he says he’s seen the foot traffic down the street fall significantly. And with construction plans for 17th Avenue looming, he’s worried it will “kill a lot of the businesses here.”

A road safety review is underway by the City, marking the first step of the construction that’s expected to begin next spring – but the announcement is bringing mixed emotions from business owners like Asturias.

“In the end, it will be good,” said Asturias. “But they don’t have to do it now where everything’s so slow, because during the construction, it’s just going to be awful for us…business has gone down already.”

Ryan Murray, with the City of Calgary’s transportation department, said that 17th Avenue “has just reached the end of its life.”

“These roads see 20 to 30 years of traffic, with tens of thousands of vehicles per day,” he said. “We have to rebuild it, for the pavement especially.”

According to Murray, the intersection of 17 Avenue and 5 Street SW, where Waves Coffee House sits, is a "hot spot" for vehicles and collisions, seeing 37,300 vehicles per day and 30 collisions in 2013.

Murray added that making the roadway safe for pedestrians “is a really big concern,” and that the focus is on the improving the sidewalks as opposed to widening the roads.

Asturias said that even through the recession, his electronic foot-counter calculated that 8,000 people walk by the coffee shop each week. He also said he's witnessed multiple collisions in the intersection.

“Making the change is going to help a lot,” he said. “It would give the pedestrians a lot more comfort in walking around the area, but I feel like if they do it at the wrong time, it’s going to kill everybody’s business.”

Currently, city officials are contacting businesses on 17th Avenue, watching the roads for review and inspecting at the state of the earth and utilities beneath the road.

Recommendations and designs are expected to be complete in September with construction starting in spring 2016. The project is currently budgeted for $20-million.

“[Business owners] know that construction can be a pitfall,” said Murray. “We’ve seen it time-in and time-out, every constructions season. So our goal is to keep businesses open during construction, and keep people coming to 17th Avenue…that’s what our goal is in construction.”

Hot spots on 17th Avenue

17th Avenue and 5th Street SW

  • Ranked seventh highest in Calgary for collision and traffic rates
  • 30 collisions in 2013
  • 27,500 vehicles per day
  • 2.99 collisions per 1,000,000 entering vehicles

17th Avenue and 14th Street SW

  • Ranked eighth highest in Calgary for collision and traffic rates
  • 40 collisions in 2013
  • 37,300 vehicles per day
  • 2.94 collisions per 1,000,000 entering vehicles

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