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After months of construction and major road closures, business owners in downtown Kelso on Tuesday said they were pleased to see South Pacific Avenue reopened to through-traffic last week.

Construction on Kelso’s main thoroughfare from Cherry Street to Vine Street began in July and was expected to be finished by early September, but unforeseen utility problems caused delays for the $1.3 million project, Community Development Director Michael Kardas said Monday.

Contractor Northwest Construction Inc. of Battle Ground is still wrapping up sidewalk repairs, but the city reopened South Pacific Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, Kardas said.

“We had some folks that were bothered because we had some delays. They were understandably frustrated about that, but it’s never a seamless process to go into downtown and rebuild a street,” he said.

Brian Downer, owner of Read A Book on South Pacific Avenue south of Pine Street, said some of his customers used his back entrance during construction.

“It slowed things down quite a bit but some customers have been determined to get in here, so that’s gratifying,” Downer said.

Jason Holt, an employee at Watkins Tractor and Supply Co. on the corner of Ash Street and South Pacific Avenue, said that while construction may have deterred new customers, business stayed steady thanks to dedicated regulars.

He added that the road used to peak so high in the middle that parked cars would tilt towards the curb.

“Traffic is back to normal so everybody is happy about that,” Holt said. “But I don’t know that anybody’s customer volume is going to increase (due to the road repairs). It’s a major thoroughfare, so it’s always going to be busy.”

Grounds for Opportunity Manager Tammy Davies said the road closure forced customers and city buses to use narrow side streets but did not negatively impact business. She added that she likes driving on the smooth, new road.

“Anything that improves the downtown core is something we are in favor of. Anything that attracts more business to the downtown core brings in more customers.”

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