Highway expansion slowing business in Salado
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While the Interstate 35 expansion is expected to ease commutes for those in Bell County, Salado businesses say the construction is hurting their bottom line.
For eight years, the Silver Spur Theater has brought various acts to Salado.
As a former clown with the Ringling Brothers Circus, executive director and actor Grainger Esch had one vision in mind for the theater.
"Our goal here is to make people laugh by any means possible," he said.
For a while, the laughs kept the 150-seat theater full. However, the theater was forced to close recently due to a lack of guests, Esch said.
He said the construction on Interstate 35 is hiding Salado's small town charm and is keeping tourists away.
"Salado used to look beautiful from the interstate. Now it's all torn up and there's dust everywhere and machines,” Esch said. “It will get back to something aesthetically pleasing to look at from the interstate, but right now it doesn't look very attractive."
Esch also said some businesses closed specifically because of the highway expansion.
Others in Salado understand the importance of the highway construction—even with the growing pains.
"We knew that progress was imminent and we needed to know that we could expand and change,” Nicole Stairs, president of the Salado Chamber of Commerce, said. “A highway coming through will only bring better things."
Stairs urges the community to be patient.
"It's going to hurt,” she said. “But it will only get better in the future"
The Texas Transportation Commission voted unanimously in 2009 to spend nearly $2 billion on 74 highway projects, over $400 million of which went to expansion projects on Interstate 35 in Bell County.