Businesses along West Main Street are bracing for six months of construction that likely will cause traffic delays in an effort to make the road safer for pedestrians and motorists. Johnny Cat Inc. of Jacksonville will begin tearing up a nearly one-mile stretch from South Columbus Avenue to Oak Grove Road during the week of April 27, then install sidewalks, bike lanes, storm drains and a continuous left-turn lane for the $2.76 million Jackson County project.

Businesses along West Main Street are bracing for six months of construction that likely will cause traffic delays in an effort to make the road safer for pedestrians and motorists. Johnny Cat Inc. of Jacksonville will begin tearing up a nearly one-mile stretch from South Columbus Avenue to Oak Grove Road during the week of April 27, then install sidewalks, bike lanes, storm drains and a continuous left-turn lane for the $2.76 million Jackson County project.

"We got a one-two punch," said Mike Hogan, owner of Rosario's Italian Restaurant. "We've got a bad economy and road construction on top of that."

Most of the major construction should be done by Oct. 31, according to county officials. Final paving and striping will take place next year, with the entire project completed by May 1, 2010.

Construction will take place through the night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and traffic could be stalled for up to 20 minutes when the road is reduced to one lane.

During the day and up to 9 p.m., the maximum closure time for traffic will be five minutes for construction.

Jackson County, which has jurisdiction over the roadway, also is worried about how the work will affect businesses.

"We will do the best we can to minimize the impacts," said Mike Kuntz, county engineer. "What I'm hearing from business owners is a real concern about business especially in this economic climate, but also the acknowledgement the road work needs to get done."

Jackson County will have a liaison to address problems that might arise with businesses and residences, and to minimize possible problems.

Half of each driveway will be kept open to businesses most of the time. Business access will not be closed during the workday without alternate routes and 24-hour notice.

The county has offered a $40,000 incentive in the contract if the contractor completes the work during the 2009 construction season.

All these steps should help minimize disruptions to businesses, said Kuntz.

The project is being paid for by state gas tax revenues, federal money and state transportation dollars.

Kuntz said one of the main goals is to lessen rear-end collisions. The county has calculated 57 accidents along this stretch since 1991, although the data doesn't include accidents handled by Medford police or the Oregon State Police.

Kuntz said the county is in discussions with the city of Medford, which might take over this section of road once the work is completed.

Generally, crews will start near Oak Grove Elementary School and work toward Columbus, but motorists should expect that any one part or all parts could have road work at any time.

Sidewalks will measure 5.5 feet across on both sides, but bike lanes will be reduced from 6 feet to 4 feet just east of Lozier Lane because the right of way is narrow through that area, said Kuntz.

At times, motorists will have to negotiate over gravel sections, and some business owners will lose some of their parking area that is in the roadway right of way.

"It's going to be tough," said Roy Forsyth, who owns the Yankee Clipper beauty supply store on West Main with his wife, Helen. "But, it'll be nice to have sidewalks and a new road."

Forsyth, along with other business owners, is hoping the construction doesn't make customers avoid the area.

He said it is obvious to anyone driving West Main that the road is bad, and it also is dangerous for pedestrians negotiating the narrow shoulders.

Forsyth owns a house just off West Main Street and remembers construction last summer to install new water lines. "We're really not looking forward to the night work," he said.

Rosario's Hogan said he understands the need to fix the roadway, pointing to pedestrians wheeling their babies along the shoulder as cars whiz by within feet.

But last year, when new water lines were installed on the street, he said he lost much of his dinner crowd. He said he was on track to have a record August last year that was ruined by the construction work.

He's confident his business will weather the construction, but he's worried that some businesses could be forced to shut down in the area.

"There are a lot of us who are very nervous with the economy and everything," said Hogan. "It's scary."

He just wishes the work had been done a couple of years ago when the economy was buzzing along, but understands that the county has the funding to complete it now.

"They have to get it done," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.