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Rebuilding Burr: $15M, three-year street project in Mitchell to kick off in April

Wave goodbye to Burr Street, because it's about to get rebuilt. A three-year, $15.733 million collaboration between the South Dakota Department of Transportation and the city of Mitchell is set to kick off in April, marking the end of an era for ...

Traffic flows along South Burr Street between Interstate 90 and East Havens Avenue on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Traffic flows along South Burr Street between Interstate 90 and East Havens Avenue on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Wave goodbye to Burr Street, because it's about to get rebuilt.

A three-year, $15.733 million collaboration between the South Dakota Department of Transportation and the city of Mitchell is set to kick off in April, marking the end of an era for the existing layout on one of Mitchell's vital thoroughfares.

According to SD DOT's Mitchell area engineer, Jay Peppel, deteriorating pavement and safety concerns at the intersection of Norway Avenue and Burr Street brought the project to the fore in Mitchell, with state and federal funds leaving the city of Mitchell on the hook for only $1,019,756 of the project. The reconstruction will include a new concrete surface, roadway lighting, signals, curb and gutter work and the addition of sidewalks, as well as work on the adjacent service roads.

And while the project could be a hassle for some Mitchell businesses and residents, City Councilman Dave Tronnes sees the long-term value of the project.

"It's going to be a frustrating event for some, but like all city's streets when they get closed, there's a need for it," Tronnes told The Daily Republic earlier this month. "So I think it needs to get done."

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The project will ultimately reconstruct Burr Street from Havens Avenue past Spruce Street, with the portion from Havens to Interstate 90 to see construction in 2017 and the area from Interstate 90 onward to be constructed in 2018. Finishing touches will be completed in 2019, Peppel said.

The work is expected to start with the closure of all northbound lanes on Burr from Havens to I-90, with all traffic utilizing the southbound lanes. Once the northbound lanes are completed, the work will flip to the southbound lanes, with all traffic flowing in the northbound side.

One of the most notable changes, according to Peppel, is the elimination of the grass ditches between the southbound and northbound lanes in favor of a raised median. The raised median will be more narrow than the ditches, allowing the lanes to be moved closer together to improve the flow of traffic turning from intersecting roadways.

"It'll look more of an urban setting versus a - I would call it - more of a rural urban setting," Peppel said on Friday.

Another notable change is at the intersection of Norway and Burr. Due to safety concerns and crash rates, the service roads at the Norway and Burr intersections will be moved slightly south, reducing congestion along the service roads near Arby's and McDonald's, respectively. Once completed, the service roads will have exit and entry points that directly access Burr Street.

The project will also boost safety for pedestrians who use Burr Street to get from place-to-place.

According to Peppel, the east side of the road will a five-foot sidewalk, and the west side will receive a larger, eight-foot pedestrian path that can also be used by bicyclists.

And like Tronnes, Councilman Marty Barington thinks the benefits will outweigh the frustration.

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"It's going to be a good project when it's done, but it's going to be a lot of headaches for a lot of people," Barington said earlier this month.

Business owners and residents who have interest in the project will also get a chance to hear more from the SD DOT in late March to review the contractor's schedule, receive information about the project and ask questions about any possible concerns. The Department of Transportation will also keep residents up to date via its website, which will have a page dedicated to the project that will be updated regularly.

"We're going to try the website to try to get more of an interactive type environment for the project," Peppel said.

While Barington and Tronnes see the project as a long-term positive for the city of Mitchell, the temporary headaches could extend toward visitors who might use exit 332 along Interstate 90 to make their way toward the Corn Palace, the city's signature tourist attraction.

The Palace was recently renovated as part of a $4.7 million effort, and Barington wondered what impact the construction on Burr Street could have on tourists.

"I think we're going to have to definitely get a lot more signage to get people possibly to the next (exit)," Barington said.

Tronnes also speculated that shifting Corn Palace traffic will be "manageable."

With the public information session a few weeks away and the project expected to kick off in April, Barington said the temporary disruption is going to be worth the potential problems that could arise down the road without addressing the existing issues.

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"But you have to put money in your infrastructure, otherwise it'll come back to bite you," Barington said.

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