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Burr Street to see more sidewalks, fewer frontage roads

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Burr Street to see more sidewalks, fewer frontage roads
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Mitchell’s Burr Street corridor should receive a major facelift by the end of 2016, making it safer and easier to navigate, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, Sayre Associates and HDR Engineering.

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Jason Kjenstad, of HDR Engineering, gave a presentation to about 20 people Tuesday evening during an open house at the Highland Conference Center, outlining the DOT’s plans for the reconstruction project. Sayre Associates and HDR Engineering are the DOT’s consulting team for the project.

The project is slated to stretch 1.5 miles, from about 1,200 feet south of the Spruce Street and state Highway 37 intersection, north on Burr to Havens Avenue.

“This is a significant project,” Kjenstad said. “This is quite a few dollars that the department is spending in partnership with the city, so we want to make sure we get things right.”

Kjenstad said the estimated $7.8 million project’s goals are to:

• Improve safety along the corridor;

• Improve drainage along the corridor;

• Reconstruct pavement to improve surface rideability and reduce maintenance;

• Adequately manage traffic conditions for 20 to 30 years;

• Improve clearance under Interstate 90 structures; and

• Improve pedestrian mobility.

To that end, Kjenstad said the project’s highlights could include “squaring up” intersections, like that of Highway 37 and Spruce Street; incorporating sidewalks along both lanes of traffic; implementing a raised median; and possibly removing portions of frontage, or service roads, that currently run parallel to Burr Street along much of the corridor. The project is mostly federal funded, with 80 percent coming from federal funds and 20 percent from state funds; Kjenstad said there is the potential for cost-sharing with the city and/or county on Spruce Street.

During the presentation, Kjenstad outlined what project planners have looked at thus far.

“As we start any project like this, the first thing we do is start reviewing traffic volumes and crash data,” he said during the presentation.

Kjenstad said the current vision for the project is to keep two lanes of traffic in both directions, but replace the current sprawling, grassy median with a more narrow, raised median, complete with curbs and gutters.

On the outside lanes of the road, Kjenstad said an additional 3 feet would also allow the city to incorporate bike lanes in the future, if so desired.

“We’ll have quite a bit of extra room,” he said during the presentation. “Certainly, visually, it will be easier for people to maneuver through.”

In addition, grass sections would separate each side’s traffic lanes from a sidewalk.

“We’re making it wider, getting people a little farther from the road,” Kjenstad said. “We want to put some pedestrian mobility in this area. As you all know, there’s really none that exists now.”

In consolidating the roadway and some of the intersections, Kjenstad said it would reduce the likelihood of accidents — particularly for left-turning vehicles.

“The longer that vehicle is taking to make a left turn, the more potential there is for crashes,” he said.

In an early concept, Kjenstad said there would be no frontage road connection to Norway Avenue, due to the close spacing with Burr Street. He also referenced traffic data showing an abundance of accidents at the intersection of Norway and Burr from 2008 to 2012. A December 2011 review of state highway accident statistics found the Burr Street/Norway Avenue intersection to be Mitchell’s most accident prone. Between 2006 and 2011, the traffic hotspot was the site of 12 injury accidents and 37 noninjury accidents.

“Nothing is changing,” he said. “The same thing is happening day in and day out.”

The concept also removes a frontage road connection to Kay Avenue, for the same reason, though U-turns would be allowed.

“Along the corridor we’re going to try to accommodate U-turns,” Kjenstad said. “We want to allow for that.”

Whether to remove the McDonald’s connection to the frontage road is still being looked at, Kjenstad said.

According to Kjenstad, the stretch from Kay to Havens is also still being looked at, but as of right now will not undergo changes as drastic as the southern portion of the Burr corridor.

Another aspect of the project would be to build in dual left-hand turn lanes on the north approach of the Spruce and Highway 37 intersection.

“We know this traffic is going to keep growing as MTI grows,” Kjenstad said. “We believe this is a good decision incorporating dual lefts.”

Following the open house, Kjenstad took general questions, and a contingent of project employees were on hand to answer questions from those in attendance.

One of the questions posed by an audience member was what kind of access there will be to Burr Street during the project’s reconstruction. Kjenstad said because much of the road will be built inward, there will be room to work with.

“Will we have a driveway closure here or there? I would expect so,” he said. “But we’re not going to shut Burr Street down for this project. We’re going to keep it open.”

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