Under Charlie’s Covers used book store, shown here during its ribbon-cutting, is one of the businesses seeing a downturn since the US 550 roadwork has started. Gary Herron photo.

The beginning of the two-year project on US 550 has become much harder on Bernalillo businesses than Southern Boulevard reconstruction has been on businesses along that road.

Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Schalow said he’d like to see businesses along US 550 and any of those affected on NM 313 by the two-year roadwork project on US 550 enjoy success similar to that of the Southern businesses.

On 550 in Bernalillo right now, “Businesses are down in revenue and they need the support of the community,” he said.

A coalition is being assembled to start taking action in early 2020, Schalow said.

“The biggest difference? This (Southern project) was a year-long project, with the chamber, city and contractor on SOS (the Shop on Southern business-support program); there, in the Town of Bernalillo, there’s Southern Sandoval County Investments, S&S (the contractor) and the state Department of Transportation. Then you have the chamber trying to help those businesses; it’s quite a bit different.”

But, he added, “We’re definitely confident with the marketing plan we’re putting in place, we can help these businesses stay in business.”

Traffic seemingly hasn’t improved on US 550, according to those who drive it daily.

“I’ve really seen the most impact this month. (We’re) down around 30 percent compared to December last year,” lamented Lara Harrison, owner of Under Charlie’s Covers, a bookstore to the southeast of the US 550-NM 313 intersection in Bernalillo.

“It’s (due to) the traffic light at Don Tomas! If they would fix that, traffic would flow,” Harrison said. “There are two lanes open on each side, all the way through the corridor. There are times that I cruise right through 550.”

According to the NMDOT website, crews on US 550 are working every day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Monday. Crews will be off Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Thursday, returning to work Friday.

A similar schedule is in the works for the following week, with crew being off Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, returning Jan. 2. All barricades will remain in place during the break for safety.