Things should be unusually quiet Monday morning in Lincoln.
That's when the new Lincoln Bypass opens to traffic, diverting about 40,000 vehicles that usually clog the city's downtown most weekdays.
But while interstates, elevated freeways and bypasses have been blamed for the economic decline of many a small-town Main Street, merchants and officials in the financially struggling city of Lincoln say they are excited to have their downtown back.
"It's the best thing that has happened to Lincoln in years," said Terrence Dorsey, who runs an investment business in the back of his wife's clothing boutique on G Street, which takes the existing Highway 65 through town.
It's taken nearly two decades of planning, delays and escalating costs for the bypass to become reality.
At $325 million, it's the most expensive Placer County transportation project ever, said Celia McAdam, executive director of the county's transportation planning agency.
The new roadway which will be officially christened in a ceremony this morning picks up traffic just south of Lincoln, diverting it west of the city before bending north toward Wheatland.
The bypass is expected to save commuters between Yuba City and Roseville about 5 minutes a day each way.
But much more is at stake for the city of Lincoln.
At first glance, losing 40,000 potential customers per day might seem like the worst thing that can happen to local businesses. There are plenty of examples.
Interstate 80 wasn't the best thing that ever happened to West Sacramento. The city has spent millions trying to resuscitate West Capitol Avenue following decades of decline after I-80 absorbed traffic that used to funnel through town.
The 2006 rerouting of Highway 49 took traffic off Main Street in the foothill town of Amador City, resulting in a 20 percent drop in business, said Dan Schutz, president of the city's merchant's association.
"It has affected everyone's business," said Schutz, who owns Bellflower Home and Garden Annex.
But transportation experts say a new bypass isn't always the death knell for main streets.
Reducing traffic creates an opportunity for a more people-friendly downtown, said Rod Diridon Sr., executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute.
A 2006 study commissioned by the state Transportation Department agreed with Diridon's assessment, finding that a bypass can lead to increased downtown business activity and other benefits.
Longtime Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove sees only positives from the bypass.
He points out that at 43,000 Lincoln has a larger population than most whistle-stop towns abandoned by the freeway. More importantly, he notes, the city wasn't getting much boost from commuters. The city's own bypass study in 2010 indicated that the vast majority of downtown shoppers (73 percent) came from home.
"Our economy is built on local people, not on commuters passing through town," Cosgrove said. "Our downtown won't just survive, it will actually flourish."
The Dorseys certainly expect the bypass to improve business conditions.
"With the opening of the bypass there will be fewer trucks, less traffic. It will be more pedestrian-friendly," said Terrence Dorsey's wife, Kathy, who runs her clothing boutique, Wardrobe, out of their 1900s-era building.
Traffic and parking were the two chief complaints about downtown, according to the city's 2010 study.
A resurgent downtown would be a blessing for Lincoln, which was hammered by the recession. The city grew 250 percent in a decade and spent heavily on civic projects, all powered by a booming housing market.
Since 2006, though, as development fees dried up and property tax revenue declined, government budgets have been cut repeatedly.
Those losses underscored the lack of a solid sales tax base, as many of the city's residents prefer to shop at the Westfield Galleria at Roseville or at other regional centers.
A more relaxed, pedestrian-friendly ambience will draw more local shoppers to downtown Lincoln, according to city leaders and merchants, who note the area already has a vibrant and growing collection of restaurants, novelty stores, boutiques, and specially markets.
And one potential target is the residents of the Sun City Lincoln Hills senior community.
"I know that a lot of (elderly) people are excited," said Katie Trott, who runs Sew Katie Jean, an eclectic downtown fabric store. The goal, she said, is to get more of the residents of the retirement community to turn right and head to downtown Lincoln rather than making a left toward the Galleria.
Nancy Moore, a Sun City resident who visited the Simple Pleasures restaurant this week to order steak sandwiches for herself and her husband, said she hopes the bypass improves the environment.
"I avoid downtown because of the traffic," said Moore, who recently had hip surgery. "I'm always afraid I'm going to get hit by a big truck."
Most of the merchants expressed no concern that the decrease in traffic will mean less exposure for their business.
"I think it's a great thing. Highway 65 is a commuter road. When people drive on 65, they are driving to work. They don't stop for haircuts. They might stop at Mcdonald's or for gas," said Al Holland, owner of Lincoln City Barber.