Just four days into Longview's three-week Civic Center traffic circle closure, business at the Monticello Hotel has slowed to a drip.
The after-church crowd didn't show up for lunch Sunday, and only one customer came for breakfast Tuesday at Ginger's restaurant, hotel management said. Business is so bad that managers have cut back staffing levels and canceled Sunday and Monday night dinners until the traffic circle reopens Sept 19.
"People just think, the circle is closed so the Monticello Hotel is closed," manager Ginger Allred said Wednesday. "It's just like a tomb around here. It's very depressing."
The traffic circle is closed while workers install four raised crosswalks with concrete bulb-outs and flashing signs to increase pedestrian visibility. The $368,500 safety project also will change the circle's traffic pattern into a true roundabout, meaning vehicles within the circle won't yield to incoming traffic as they do now at the two Washington Way entry points.
City officials say they've heard rumors in the last couple days that the traffic circle is closed permanently.
"It definitely will reopen," Public Works Director Jeff Cameron said Tuesday.
Traffic has increased on side streets, and the city has been repositioning signs and electronic readerboards to improve traffic flow on Washington Way near Hudson Street, Cameron said. But customers aren't using the Monticello Hotel's back parking lot's entrance on 18th Avenue, said Monticello owner Phil Lovingfoss.
"People see the ‘road closed' sign and they don't think about alternative routes," he said Wednesday. "The signage isn't that great to let them know the businesses are still open."
Despite some driver confusion, the Longview Public Library and the post office are doing the usual amount of business, according to the library director and acting postmaster.
Some customers have complained about the temporary removal of the blue mailboxes from the traffic circle, but that seems to be the biggest inconvenience, acting Postmaster Tom Nichols said. The four drive-up mailboxes have been moved to the parking lot at 1217 14th Ave. Access to the temporary mailboxes will be from the alley between 14th and 15th avenues, near the former Olympic Drug building.
Post office patrons have limited access to the post office parking lot from Washington Way at Hudson Street. Next to the post office, 16th Avenue south of the circle remains open. Patrons may use this street to park and walk to the post office.
Library patrons have been finding their way through the maze of roadblocks, Library Director Chris Skaugset said. The library is accessible from Maple Street off Washington Way, with parking available in the library lot.
"I've heard plenty of people grumbling about trying to get here — but they seem to be getting here," Skaugset said.
Information about the Civic Center project is on the city's website, www.mylongview.com, and updates will be posted on Facebook.