Hours into a months-long closure for eastbound traffic on the Bay Street Bridge, businesses said they were already feeling the effects of the traffic change.

The bridge, which connects downtown Victoria with Vic West via Bay Street, was closed to eastbound traffic Tuesday as work began on safety upgrades. The lane closure is expected to last more than five months, and the westbound lane will not alternate directions.

"Normally at this time of day I'm as busy as a bee and the café is empty and there's not a lot going on," said Nick Crooks, the owner of Saltchuck Pie Company. The pie business is situated less than a block away from the bridge on the downtown side.

Speaking on CFAX 1070, Crooks said typically the noon hour would be busy with lunchtime customers but on Tuesday, his store was empty.

It's a similar story at Moon Under Water, which typically has a busy Tuesday lunch rush.

"Tuesdays have been crazy the last few months, we probably have four customers at the moment," said Anne Farmer, the pub's co-owner.

Westbound traffic is still moving, but starting late Tuesday morning eastbound traffic was blocked at Tyee Road. The closure is part of a more than $6-million  upgrade to the bridge.

Both business owners believe traffic flow should be alternated during the construction period instead of closing all eastbound traffic for the duration of the work. "The whole shut down of one-way, in people's heads they just think the bridge is closed," said Crooks. 

Philip Bellefontaine, assistant transportation director for the City of Victoria, said the city did explore having traffic travelling one way in the morning and a different direction in the afternoon but said it would have been, "very, very disruptive."

"We looked at having alternating traffic throughout the day but we found because of the length of the bridge that it is very inefficient because people have to wait for the bridge to clear," Bellefontaine told Al Ferraby on CFAX 1070.

He also said changing the traffic direction takes away the predictability and certainty for drivers. 

"What it also means is that every time that you change the direction of traffic, everything has to come to a stop for some 15 or 20 minutes and that's even more disruptive," Bellefontaine said.

Farmer understands that alternating traffic flow might lead to more delays, but she believes it would be better for Rock Bay businesses.

"Your commute is going to take longer but at least you can go both ways," she said.

Traffic signals at the Johnson Street Bridge will be adjusted to help accommodate an expected surge in westbound traffic.

The work on the bridge is being performed by Seismic 2000 at an estimated budget of $6.1 million.

The provincial and federal governments are each kicking in $1.2 million for the project.