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Multifaceted study aims to help improve Mitchell's transportation system

The $50K study will include public input and surveys to develop the city's master transportation plan

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Traffic flows in Mitchell on Tuesday afternoon. The City of Mitchell is taking up a travel study in a hope to improve transportation in the city.
Matt Gade/Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — How can Mitchell improve transportation throughout the city?

That’s the question city leaders are seeking with the help of Mitchell residents in a transportation study that recently got underway.

The multifaceted study will ultimately help produce the city’s 20-year master plan that outlines future projects to improve transportation throughout Mitchell, such as road construction work, stop light improvements and expanding walking paths, to name a few.

“We will be looking at the traffic patterns in the city, including the various stop lights and signs, and figure out what new ways we can improve traveling through the city,” Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson said. “Ultimately, I hope this will help us find ways to move traffic more smoothly, which needs to be addressed.”

The $50,000 study is being led by HDR, Inc., an Omaha-based engineering and architectural design firm.

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Jonathan Wiegand, a project leader with HDR and an official heading the project, emphasized it will examine much more modes of transportation than vehicles traversing on roads. It will entail looking at ways to improve sidewalks, bicycle paths and public transit services such as Palace Transit.

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Reagan Morgan, a second-grader at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, rides his bike on on May 5, 2017 up the sidewalk outside of Gertie Belle Rogers. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

“This is a long-range plan that will look at all modes of travel,” Wiegand said during the recent Jan. 18 City Council meeting . “We can incorporate some air travel as well.”

The study will be broken down into five phases, which includes a baseline conditions analysis, standards development plan, a future needs analysis, implementation plan and the development of the finalized plan.

“This first phase is essentially what we call the issues and needs phase of the study. We collect all the issues and needs through analysis and study team input, and then culminate that with the upcoming public stakeholder meetings,” Wiegand said.

The final phases will include the development of transportation projects that could be incorporated into the city’s 20-year master transportation plan.

“We will also go through evaluating and vetting those future projects that look out over the next 20 years,” he said. “There will be crash history reviews and traffic operations analysis that will also be incorporated.”

Wiegand highlighted the importance of community involvement. Wiegand said project leaders and city officials will host public meetings with Mitchell residents to receive feedback on identifying roads and other transportation routes that are in need of improvement.

The study is anticipated to wrap up in the spring. Project leaders will meet with smaller targeted groups like bicyclists, business owners and community stakeholders.

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“We will have a virtual online self-paced component that will show the same information presented at the public meeting,” Wiegand said. “The travel survey is up and live, which can be accessed. There are about 18 questions for anyone who wants to participate.”

The online survey seeking public input on all things transportation is open to the public until Feb. 11. Public Works Director Joe Schroeder encouraged community members and people who live in the surrounding Mitchell area to take part in the online survey that can be found at www.mitchellmtp.com . The survey window stretches from Thursday to Feb. 11.

The first public meeting for the study will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday inside the Corn Palace.

Honing in on stoplights, public transportation

For Everson, one particular area that he would like to address is the city’s stoplights. Everson said there are “too many” stoplights that slow traffic flow.

“I want to see the stop lights get fixed. We need to address the lights because there are spots that create poor traffic flow,” Everson said, pointing to the Burr Street and First Avenue intersection stoplight as one of the areas that needs to be examined.

Looking at the downtown corridor, a lack of parking has become become a major issue for some Main Street business owners. Over the years, discussions of implementing diagonal parking spots along Main Street have surfaced among some city officials and downtown business owners, which could be a topic further examined.

Traffic flows through downtown Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Traffic flows through downtown Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Another element of the study includes looking at Mitchell’s public transportation system. Palace Transit is the lone public transportation service in Mitchell, and Community Services Director Jessica Pickett said she’s eager to examine the idea of implementing a fixed bus route.

Palace Transit operates on an appointment-based system, meaning people who are seeking a ride to and from a destination must arrange the bus ride a day in advance. With the growing demand in bus ridership, Pickett said a fixed route – which entails bus stops that people can use throughout set times of the day – is one method that should be looked into further.

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“It would be nice to see what the community thinks about adding a fixed route like you see in large metro cities and whether there is a need for it,” Pickett said.

Related Topics: TRANSPORTATION
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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