The massive $11 million Dunlop Street road construction project is underway, with plans to beautify and revitalize Barrie's downtown core.

Crews began digging slightly earlier than initially planned.

"We did need to advance the start of the project by a couple of weeks," says City of Barrie's Andrea Miller.

The 'We Dig Downtown' campaign started by the city is an effort to boost businesses impacted by the construction, but owners aren't impressed.

"Nothing like coming in for a glass of wine and lighting candles and then, you know, a jackhammer going," says Shirley's Bayside Grill's manager, Brooke Starr.

She says that not only are sales down, but they have had to adjust their hours because of the disruption.

For other businesses in the construction zone, it's been a nightmare.

"It's been three or four days, and we're dropping anywhere from 30 to 50 percent each day," says Hooters restaurant owner John Goard.

With the street blocked and a road closed sign posted at Bayfield Street, business owners say many people don't even know they are still open.

Goard says he plans to purchase signs to drive customers back to his doors. "[It's] the summer season, which is high season for everybody in downtown Barrie."

The city is offering free two-hour parking at the Collier Street Parkade to help bring in customers during the construction.  There are 39 spots available until Nov. 8th.  The parkade is within walking distance to several downtown shops, restaurants and the Five-Points Theatre.

This phase of construction is expected to be completed by early November, but relief will be short-lived. The next phase will start in the spring.