Kansas Department of Transportation intends to have the I-70 east Abilene ramps open by mid-October.
If all goes according to plan, the ramps would be open Oct. 7 but giving time for unexpected delays, mid-October should be a safe estimate, said Public Affairs Manager David Greiser. Although it’s only been closed since Aug. 19, mid-October can’t come quick enough for some of the businesses that rely on interstate travelers for a good portion of their business.
“It’s cut our business in half,” said Jacque Immel, manager at the 24/7 Store. In the eight years that she has been at that location this is the first time ramps have been closed. “Thank goodness our locals are loyal.”
That’s the consensus among several merchants in that corridor who depend heavily on Interstate travelers. Those who don’t, like Bill Sheppard, owner of Sips, are still drawing in the local customers.
“Ninety nine percent of our business is local. We’ve had no material effect,” he said.
Those who are being affected are looking for ways to accommodate the loss in revenue. Luis Munoz, manager at La Fiesta increased advertising in the local newspaper, while Immel said she had coupons printed up and put out around town to hopefully bring people to their side of town.
“We usually have people lined up. Now — nothing,” Munoz said, adding that he estimates a loss of about 30 percent of business.
When business revenue is lost, there is only so much coupons and advertising can do. At Burger King, manager Chasity Thomas has had to cut employee hours to accommodate for an estimated 40 to 50 percent drop in business.
“We had to cut shifts, six-hour shifts are now four, there’s been a lot of letting people go home early,” she said. This comes at a bad time because it is usually around this time that they start seeing a drop off in sales anyway — first because of school resuming, then in October as the holidays near.
She is hopeful that business will pick up the holiday travelers. Greiser said both lanes of I-70 should be opened mid-November.
Once they are open, there will be a few of months unobstructed travel before the orange cones go back up.
“Next spring all traffic will be moved onto the improved eastbound lanes while the westbound lanes, ramps and bridges are completed,” he said. “Plans call for all construction to be completed on or about Nov. 1, 2014, weather permitting.”