Let’s hope for a fruitful discussion

Let's hope for a fruitful discussion by the Plain Talk For anyone who has wondered what benefit, if any, has been experienced by Vermillion being chosen by Gov. Mike Rounds to be Capital for a Day earlier this spring, consider this:

? The state Department of Transportation had earlier in the year announced its plans for reconstructing Cherry Street in the city.

? The format used by state officials to discuss the future of the street left many citizens either confused, angry or a little bit of both. The state billed the event, held last February at the National Guard Armory here, as a public hearing to discuss Cherry Street.

? The state�s idea of a public hearing was to attach a long, difficult-to-read map of the entire length of the street over several long tables. And to have officials on hand to answer any questions.

? No �official� meeting was held. The event was public, but there was no �hearing.� The chance given to the public to testify either for or against the project? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

? A number of people who attended this �public hearing� were expecting, at the very least, that 1) the DOT would fully explain the project, and the reasoning behind its design decisions, and 2) people would be given a chance to respond. Neither happened.

Vermillion citizens will be given what best can be described as a �real� opportunity to comment on Cherry Street. It appears that Capital for a Day, held this spring in the city, is in part responsible for inspiring the state�s interest in the public�s opinions.

The DOT will hold an hour-long public meeting beginning at 5 p.m. July 12 at the National Guard Armory. Unlike February�s �hearing� there will be a presentation given by state officials to explain what�s ahead, beginning at 5:15 p.m.

DOT staff will be available with display to discuss the project and answer questions before and after the presentation.

Citizens will also be given an opportunity to present written comments.

This is what we know about the proposal to improve Cherry Street: Bids for the estimated $4.6 million project will be let in late 2006. Construction of the 2.5 mile long Cherry Street will begin in early 2007, and hopefully be completed in two years.

DOT officials have sent letters and held meetings with property owners who will be directly affected by the street project.

The contractor of the project will decide whether to begin work on the west end or east end of the street. Since it is a two year project, it is estimated that the first year�s work will end at Dakota Street.

Cherry Street will, in fact, be three different segments of road. Improvement on its west end will begin at James Street. The west section, if state plans don�t change, will be lowered and widened from a two-lane roadway with shoulders to a three-lane roadway, with a left turn lane in the middle and wide shoulders.

Cherry Street will also be three lanes wide from Cottage Avenue up through Dakota Street and through the USD campus. The street will have one lane each direction, a center turn lane in the middle, and new curb and gutter roughly in the same as now. The street in that section will not be widened, but we the state plans to add right turn lanes at selected intersections.

From the east side of the USD campus to Crawford Road on Vermillion�s east city limits, Cherry Street will be widened to a five-lane section. Plans call for two lanes going east, two lanes going west, with a center turn lane down the middle of that section of street.

There�s probably one thing that most citizens can agree on. It�s time to do something with the street. It was originally constructed in 1952. The last improvements to this main roadway in Vermillion were made in 1980.

It is worn out.

Just how the street will be repaired remains in question. It sounds as if the public will be given an opportunity to find the right answers to that question.

Let�s hope for (excuse the pun) a fruitful discussion on July 12.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net.

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