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City officials say request for stop signs near Mitchell gymnastics facility not warranted

The request seeks to install stop signs at two intersections along Douglas Avenue due to safety concerns

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Shown here is the intersection along Douglas Avenue and Rowley Street that a Mitchell resident is seeking to have the city install a pair of stops signs.
Sam Fosness / Republic

MITCHELL — A Mitchell resident’s push to have stop signs installed at a pair of intersections near a new gymnastics facility is facing some hurdles.

Due to safety concerns, Bill Wittsruck, of Mitchell, is requesting the city to install stop signs along Douglas Avenue near the gymnastics facility known as CORE Athletics. But Public Works Director Joe Schroeder said the traffic data and crash history on the pair of intersections does not warrant the installation of stop signs.

“I’m aware that the traffic flow has changed around that area," he said, "but the data shows stop signs are still not warranted.”

The request seeks to have signs placed at the Douglas Avenue and Rowley Street intersection and two at Douglas Avenue and Main Street, which are one block apart. As of now, there are two yield signs for west and eastbound traffic at the Douglas Avenue and Rowley Street intersection and two stop signs at the Douglas Avenue and Main Street intersection.

After Wittstruck’s daughter opened a gymnastics facility at 113 W. Douglas Ave. roughly two years ago, there has been a slight increase in traffic around the area. With the bump in traffic and a hill along Douglas Avenue that increases vehicle speeds traveling westbound, another resident who owns property in the area has also addressed concerns over the intersections in the past.

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“That could help keep people from flying down the hill if there is ever an issue,” a nearby property owner, Dustin Long, said during a 2019 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting when the permit was granted for the gymnastic facility.

How does the city decide whether a stop sign request is warranted?

According to Schroeder, analyzing traffic counts where stop signs are requested is one of the most vital factors city officials consider to determine placing stop signs at intersections.

The intersections where Wittstruck is asking the city to place stop signs sees less than half the traffic needed to warrant stop signs.

“One of the warrants is whether there are 2,000 units per day, including vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists, coming through the intersections,” Schroeder said. “There is way less than that at those intersections.”

An example of a Mitchell intersection that sees about 2,000 units per day is the Burr Street and Seventh Avenue intersection, which Schroeder said is dubbed a “very busy intersection.”

Examining crash data at an intersection is another factor.

Schroeder said the benchmark for crashes includes five or more crashes that involve failure to yield at the right-of-way in a three-year period and three or more crashes in a two-year period. According to the data, Schroeder said there has not been any crashes reported at the intersections in the time frame outlined in the process.

The request raised some concerns for Mitchell City Councilman Steve Rice, who said stop signs would have a negative effect on traffic flow around the area.

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“By doing this, we would be changing that traffic flow on Douglas and Rowley Street from through to stopping and making the north to south of Rowley the through route,” Rice said during Monday’s council meeting. “Is that really the intent?”

In response to Rice’s concerns, Schroeder said all yield and stop signs should not be used for speed control.

If stop signs were given the green light to be installed, Schroeder said it could have the opposite effect on public safety and cause crashes since drivers have adapted to the existing traffic signage setup.

“Someone might not be used to it being there, and you could potentially see some accidents in the first few months to a year if it is approved,” Schroeder said.

Since Wittstruck was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, the council tabled making a decision on the request. The council will consider approving at Tuesday’s meeting with the hope Wittstruck is able to attend to discuss more details behind the request.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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