Construction on a Johnson Drive bridge causing Shawnee business woes

SHAWNEE, Kan. - Small businesses in Shawnee, Kan., are struggling because construction on Turkey Creek Bridge has stopped the flow of traffic.

Shops like Encore Boutique, owned by Tamara Hudson, depend on drive-by customers. But construction on the bridge, which started in February, has all drivers headed westbound on Johnson Drive taking a detour.

That route many times frustrates motorists. Hudson told us one man headed to her store who took the detour wasn’t happy.

“By the time he got here he was incredibly cranky," she said.

Hudson has owned the boutique for more than 10 years.

"We normally have traffic going up and down this street that we can catch morning commuters and evening commuters," she said.

In good times, she says her store and about a dozen other businesses along Johnson Drive already have some 20 clients by lunch time, at least.

By noon Monday, the only person who had been in was the mailman. Tamara said traffic has cut back 70 percent.

"It's scary. When we found out it was going to happen we anticipated 30-40 percent based on other construction projects, but the 70 percent was not anticipated," she said.

Since February, the bridge over Turkey Creek at Johnson Drive and Merriam has been shut down; it's the main artery to downtown Shawnee. The City of Merriam said the bridge has failed bi-annual bridge inspections since 2009 and is in desperate need of repair.

"It was structurally deficient," Merriam City Engineer Hyejin Lee said.

She explained they tried to find a way to repair it and keep it open at the same time, but that would have been dangerous.

"We would have to transition the lanes and they will back up onto Johnson Drive ramps on I-35 and there was some concern of cars overhanging the railroad," Lee said.

So for now, Shawnee is allowing businesses to add extra signage to try and attract buyers.

Hudson said she would not give up and plans to do her best to keep the doors open until the construction is completed. She and other store owners are using social media to promote their businesses and are getting more involved in community events to promote themselves.

"I'm going to fight. I'm going to do everything I can," she said.

The construction should be completed by July.

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