A busy intersection on the south side of Mitchell will undergo major upgrades in the near future to improve traffic flow and better connect the city to Mitchell Technical College.

City officials have been working with the South Dakota Department of Transportation on bringing upgrades to the East Spruce and South Burr Street intersection along a stretch of railroad tracks, where the only turnoff to reach Mitchell Technical College is located. As part of the plan, over 400 feet of the two streets surrounding the intersection will receive a fresh new layer of concrete and a stretch of sidewalk that connects from Burr Street to the campus.

“We do have an agreement with the DOT, and the BNSF railroad will be completing approximately 100 feet of this work,” Public Works Director Joe Schroeder said of the scope of the project during the recent October City Council meeting. “I know it’s a small area, but it’s a substantial project. In total, we will put new surfacing and concrete on 460 feet of the road.”

Considering trains frequently travel along the BNSF railroad that stretches through the intersection, the city will be installing a cantilever flashing light signal that directs traffic when a train is in running through the intersection. As of now, a pair of flashing lights are the only traffic signals set up for incoming trains. Schroeder said Brosz Engineering would be tasked with securing permits as the project moves forward.

The Mitchell City Council approved tabbing Brosz Engineering to take on designing the street improvements at a cost of $49,980. Schroeder said the intersection will be closed off for about two months in the summer of 2022. A detour will be set up during the two-month closure of the intersection.

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With the high volume of traffic that flows through the intersection, which increases from late August to early May while college students are in class, Schroeder said the city’s goal is to begin working on the project in late spring 2022.

“We’re allowing the construction to start in spring specifically because of DakotaFest and school starting,” he said, adding the hope for a fall 2022 completion date.

Schroeder said the project will also connect the Burr Street shared use paths frequently used for walking and bicycling to Mitchell Technical College campus, which is located about a half mile east of the intersection.

During the council’s discussion on the street improvements, Council member Susan Tjarks addressed a safety concern she has with the intersection being the lone method into the MTC campus, located at 1800 E. Spruce St.

“When a train is going through here, there is no access if there were to be a fire,” Tjarks said.

Tjarks implored the idea of building a bridge as another thoroughfare to the campus. Rather than a bridge, city officials have been exploring the idea of extending Foster Street which hits a dead end just short of Interstate 90.

According to Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson, the city has had recent discussion with the DOT about extending Foster Street to connect to Mitchell Technical College by constructing it under Interstate 90 similar to the Burr Street bridge.

“The discussion was putting Foster Street to extend below Interstate 90 like Burr Street does,” Everson said, noting it could be a costly project hovering around $13 million.

Schroeder said the preliminary discussions he’s had with state transportation officials indicated a possible Foster Street extension would be “considered” when the DOT upgrades the portion of Interstate 90 along the Burr Street intersection.

For Council member Steve Rice, whether the DOT comes through and helps the city extend Foster Street, it’s good to get the project on the radar.