When the dust clears -- the entire Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project is now expected to be completed in spring 2013 -- the result will be a smoother, more inviting and faster-flowing Mission Boulevard.

Those improvements include an extra traffic lane extending south to Carlos Bee Boulevard to help accommodate Cal State East Bay traffic, improved intersections along the entire corridor, buried utility lines, a landscaped median, rejuvenated sidewalks and a deep layer of seamless asphalt.

But these days, it's less than inviting for commuters and shoppers alike, said Fred Perez, who owns the Hayward Flower Shop just south of Harder Road.

"Between the parking and the traffic, people don't want to deal with this street anymore," he said.

Perez said he had a sharp drop in customers because people avoid the area, and even if they pass through, parking spaces in front of his shop were converted to a traffic lane to allow for the median work.

"For Valentine's Day, I didn't even have a third of the walk-in customers compared to last year," Perez said.

Farther down Mission, restaurateur Enrique Guzman of Los Dos Hermanos estimated that his business has dropped 25 to 30 percent.

He added that the parking lot they are left with can't accommodate weekend crowds at the 100-capacity restaurant, and people seeking meals to-go are especially likely to go elsewhere. Many are used to parking on the street.

"As we finish work on the sidewalks, some of that may come back," said city project manager Kevin Briggs. "It will not be spring of 2013 before we finish (that part of) Mission."

For example, the current schedule estimates that the stretch from Calhoun Street to Harder, which includes Perez's flower shop, will be finished in October, and his side of the street even sooner, by July 25. That portion involves less work than other stretches because utilities already are underground, Briggs said.

For Guzman, whose restaurant is about a mile to the south, the process will take about a year longer.

For commuters, the potholes were at their worst during the rainy season, when weather made temporary patches quickly fail. In January and February, nine motorists filed claims with the city in an effort to recoup damages to their vehicles as a result of potholes.

Aside from one claim for more than $25,000, they averaged about $450 -- mostly damage to tires and wheels.

Deputy City Attorney Rafael Alvarado said those claims are passed along to Top Grade Construction.

"They have a contractual duty to address any claim that comes out of their construction activities," Alvarado said.

Briggs said that because of the pothole problems, the city instructed Top Grade to do more permanent repairs on the road immediately, rather than wait until the end of the project.

"Normally, after we've completed all the trenching and work that would disturb the surface, then we would go in and do all these repairs," Briggs said. "However, the road was in such bad shape when it was given to us by Caltrans, the temporary repairs are just not holding."

Asphalt is being laid down for the more permanent fix, even though some of it may be removed toward the end of the job when they grind off 2 inches from the top and resurface it for a smooth finished road, Briggs said.

Work also recently began on Foothill Boulevard north of A Street, where Pacific Gas and Electric crews are relocating and upgrading their utilities and Top Grade began work related to new streetlights, Briggs said. More work is scheduled to start soon on the stretch to the northern city limit, lasting until the end of this year.

Extensive work in the downtown area, where a loop of one-way streets will be constructed, will start this summer.

That part of the project is expected to take a year to complete, with the implementation of the loop anticipated for July 2012.

For more information about the project, go to the city's website at http://www.hayward-ca.gov and click on the "Route 238 Corridor Improvement Project" link in the Projects and Studies section.