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Davison County board unhappy with plan for key Mitchell intersection change

Reconstruction planned for as soon as 2024

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The intersection of North Main Street and the State Highway 37 bypass/Fairoaks Avenue in Mitchell is scheduled to be changed in 2024 to remove the free-turn lanes, as pictured at top. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Members of the Davison County Commission say they’re upset with a plan that would change a key intersection in Mitchell when it’s reconstructed by the South Dakota Department of Transportation later this decade.

During a recent meeting in Mitchell, the commission said they were frustrated that the DOT’s plan for the reconstruction of the intersection of North Main Street and the Highway 37 bypass/Fairoaks Avenue doesn’t include free-right turn lanes when reconstruction is planned for 2024.

As currently constructed, vehicles coming from the west and heading south into the city, and vehicles traveling south on North Main Street and continuing west on the bypass are able to avoid the intersection completely because of the free-right turn lanes that divert those turns away from the stop lights. Under the proposed change, traffic will have to go to through the stop-light intersection and make a standard right-hand turn.

The change is being made for the safety of pedestrians. Davison County Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said the safety concerns of truckers going through that intersection should be a higher priority.

“I don’t want anyone going across there on foot, if we’re being honest,” Bode said on Feb. 2. “The size of the vehicles makes that dangerous. … Every time I’ve discussed it with farmers, they’re adamantly opposed to it.”

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She added didn’t think there should be any pedestrian crossings at the intersection.

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The reconstruction of North Main Street will run north from the State Highway 37 bypass/Fairoaks Avenue intersection to National Guard Road in Mitchell and cost an estimated $16.2 million. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The commission’s complaints are late to the game: the South Dakota DOT and city of Mitchell held a public meeting about the topic more than a year ago on Jan. 7, 2020 at Mitchell Technical College, and explained why the change is being made as part of the $16.2 million reconstruction project.

“We are going to remove this primarily because of the pedestrian improvements that will be at the intersection, as it needs to be pulled in tight, otherwise we would increase the probability of crashes with pedestrians,” SDDOT Design Project Manager Neil Schochenmaier told the Mitchell Republic at the time of the meeting .

As part of the project, a new shared-use path is set to be built from Fairoaks Avenue to Firesteel Creek and then from Harmon Drive to National Guard Road, where the north end of construction will conclude.

Time could be running out to make changes to the intersection. The SDDOT had planned to finish its final design early in 2021 and then work on right of way acquisition in mid-2021.

“We need to not have them take that away,” said Commissioner John Claggett, who was among the commissioners who advocated for local truckers to tell the SDDOT to leave the intersection as is.

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Traffic figures from 2018 for the SDDOT indicate that about 9% of the traffic on the roadway north of the intersection is truck traffic. It also estimates that over the next 25 years, average daily traffic will grow by more than 40% to more than 7,200 vehicles per day. Currently, that figure is about 4,900 vehicles per day.

SDDOT said replacing the aging bridges along the route and the concrete traffic surface are also priorities.

Related Topics: TRAFFIC AND CONSTRUCTION
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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