Responding to pleas from business owners along Newport Boulevard, the city recently agreed to install $5,000 worth of signs telling drivers that the businesses are still open during construction.
The signs add to the steps store owners have taken since construction began in September, including offering coupons, special sales, delivery service and other promotions.
Still, they say the construction, coupled with the downturn in the economy, has hit their businesses extra hard this winter.
"When I first opened, it wasn't this tough," said Michael Anthony Katbi, owner of White Glove, a dry cleaners. He estimates his business has been cut in half since the highway project started.
Before that, Katbi employed three pressers, each working 40 hours a week. When business slowed, he offered to deliver cleaned clothes to his customers' homes, but found that difficult because many of them work two jobs and are not home until late at night after he closes.
Recently, his pressers found jobs elsewhere after he told them he couldn't continue to pay them for full-time work.
"I felt I had to tell them," he said. "It's not fair. I couldn't pay them 40 hours for 20 hours of work."
A red sign covering the side of a big-rig trailer tells drivers slowed by the construction and detours to visit Radio Shack. A salesman there said the store's Texas headquarters agreed to pay for the sign and trailer during the construction.
In mid-November, Caltrans reduced Newport Boulevard northbound to one lane. The closure was made to complete a bridge across the freeway at 21st Street and to build a retaining wall south of 22nd Street.
The job is expected to be completed in mid-1992. The closed lane, however, should be reopened by June.
Perhaps the only businesses not seeing a drastic decline are motels, because the winter months are usually lean, according to Sandpiper Motel Manager Kimberly Guzman.
But other businesses continue to struggle. Marilyn Powell of the Newport Antique Mall now puts maps and directions on her advertisements to show customers alternate routes to the store.
With 50 dealers renting space in the store, Powell usually has a waiting list of at least 20 dealers who want in. With a 35% drop in sales since construction began, some dealers have gone to other shops, leaving her with space for about four dealers.