Searching for a smoother route

Searching for a smoother route by David Lias The city of Vermillion may begin searching for a way to modify its surface transportation system after refusing to endorse a specific plan for Crawford Road that's been on the books since 1965.

The council had to make a decision on the proposed street route Monday, as the South Dakota Department of Transportation had requested the annual review of the city's proposed STIP projects.

The resolution approves the allotment and spending schedule of the STIP-Urban Construction Program.

Had it not been modified Monday, the original plans for Crawford Road would have remained intact, and in 2007, the street may have been extended from the intersection of Crawford, Crestview and Sterling streets south through an undeveloped wooded ravine to Burbank Road.

Crawford, in this design, was envisioned by the city's planners four decades ago to create a connection for through traffic traveling southeast to and from Burbank and beyond as well as traffic from Nebraska traveling north and east of Vermillion.

At the time the street was originally designed, however, Vermillion's city limits didn't extend as far east as Crawford Road. The road, if built in the mid-1960s, would have been constructed through an empty field.

If constructed today, the street would route traffic through one of the more prominent neighborhoods in the city, made up of larger homes built in the last 20 years.

"Back in 1965, the city adopted a comprehensive plan with a major street plan," City Engineer Bill Welk said. "And that's where Crawford Road first appeared."

At the time, he said, apartments were being developed below the bluff near Burbank Road.

"They (city planners) wanted future access up the bluff," Welk said. "Every council since that time, back in 1976 when it (the comprehensive plan) was updated, and also back in the '80s and in our most recent one, have all shown Crawford Road on the major street plan."

The road, he said, was designed to be an arterial route, spaced logically between other north-south streets already in existence.

"You have Dakota and University (streets)," Welk said, "and this would be the next logical location. They picked this location because of the ravine and the nature of the terrain. You could get a road in there easier than most other locations."

The city engineer did point out an important factor. Virtually no one was living in that area when the street was first designed. That, in part, explains why the street extension hasn't been built.

"In 1965, there were very few homes out there," he said. "In fact, it wasn't even in the city limits at that time. Nothing could be done at that point as far as using urban systems money to build a road that isn't even in the city, so it just hung in limbo all of these years, constantly just appearing on our major street plans."

Welk noted that the planners of housing developments in eastern Vermillion were aware that the Crawford Road design was on the books.

That fact lends little comfort to the homeowners that currently reside in the neighborhood where the proposed route would be constructed. The city council faced a standing room only crowd Monday of approximately 50 people.

"Right now, we need to get some type of plan to the state of South Dakota," Mayor Roger Kozak said. "It's a compliance factor, and we have to share information with them."

He suggested that as the city submits a plan to the state, the city council should also conduct a review of all options available.

"That means looking at Crawford Road, list out what are the advantages and what are the disadvantages," Kozak said. "And then look at all the other options we have available." Those options could include a road further east, or no road at all, he said.

Alderman Jere Chapman suggested changing the wording of the city's plan so that it doesn't specifically name Crawford Road, but includes future development of a road from Main Street to Burbank Road.

"And we've got to go back very quickly and have this study and hear citizens' input on both sides of the issue," he said.

The motion was approved by the council.

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