The 5th Street Bridge is open — and so is downtown Courtenay.
While the route isn’t operating as business as usual for some time, it is open to single-lane alternating traffic for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Some businesses are concerned that some people think bridge access is cut off.
The City of Courtenay did announce in early May how traffic patterns would work in the coming months while work is happening on the bridge.
Sean Ferguson, who runs Runge’s Deli and is vice-president of the Downtown Business Association, says some businesses have noticed less traffic since the major renovation project on the bridge started. He is expected to take over as BIA president this week.
“So far, we’ve noticed a lot less foot traffic in the stores,” he says.
The businesses, Ferguson says, want to send the message that they are open.
“Parking has become much more available,” he says. “You’re going to get the same great service.”
One thing that has helped, Ferguson says, has been the addition of a traffic control light to control bridge traffic. He also points to other measures such as the detour signs for drivers.
“It’s actually a lot easier to get downtown than most people figure,” he adds. “Give yourself a couple extra minutes.”
A random chat with a few visitors downtown on a late Saturday morning reveals few obstacles in getting there, though maybe a little bit of confusion for some people right around the bridge.
One woman, who did not wish to be interviewed, said in passing it was not too difficult coming downtown, adding, “People complain too much. I’m from Eastern Europe.”
Samantha Hull, who was driving in from the south and took the bridge, said parking was easy and the bridge was a little confusing, with a few people waiting at green lights, but the wait was not too long.
“Ten minutes for us is not really a big deal,” she says. “We also come from the Mainland originally, so really any kind of Island traffic for us isn’t terrible.”
Denise Eigler and Michael Teichroeb are regular visitors to downtown and say some people seemed a little confused about which lanes to use when approaching the bridge but added it was not bad once they got downtown, especially when compared with alternate routes like 17th Street.
“It’s probably a bit crowded over there,” Teichroeb says.
In any case, merchants with the Downtown BIA are looking at ways to encourage more people to come to downtown Courtenay, such as Free Money Mondays during the bridge project. People can fill out a receipt from a store and drop it off at Runge’s or Design Therapy for a chance to win a gift certificate each week.
“In the end, we’re doing a big prize draw, and that’s to help encourage people to come down,” Ferguson says.
For more information, see downtowncourtenay.com