Cherry Street given green light

Cherry Street given green light
The Vermillion City Council ultimately hushed a month's worth of controversy surrounding the Cherry Street reconstruction project by passing a resolution Monday that supports the state Department of Transportation's plans.

The DOT needed to know, said City Manager John Prescott, whether Vermillion was "on board" with the street improvement proposal.

The city council decided Monday to give an affirmative answer to that question.

The state's plans have pitted citizens who call it a step in the right direction for a progressive community against hundreds of people who are concerned that pedestrian safety and aesthetics are being sacrificed in the state's plans.

Over 300 citizens have signed petitions in recent months, calling on the state to reconsider its plans. The DOT plans to improve three miles of the highway from the west junction of S.D. 19 to the beginning of the divided highway east of town.

The plan caused a stir when first introduced by state officials last spring.

Part of the controversy centers on the state's plans to not only resurface, but widen portions of the street.

The project includes widening the section between James Street�and�Cottage Avenue�to three lanes with shoulders, replacing the section between Cottage and�Plum�with three lanes, and widening the section from�Plum�to�Crawford Street�from four to five lanes.

Cherry Street was originally constructed in 1952, with the last improvement in 1980. The average daily traffic (ADT) count for 2002 was 10,205 vehicles, projected to hit an ADT of 14,780 in 2022.

The traffic counts were taken during the winter to reflect USD student numbers.

Ron Peterson, area engineer with the DOT from Yankton, said he listens when people express concerns over pedestrian safety, traffic bottlenecks and the possibility of increased speeding and accidents.

"I believe it's the wish of the city staff, and I concur with them, that we shouldn't be involved in designing this project," Mayor Dan Christopherson said. "It's a state DOT project, so we as a city should not be involved in the direct design of it. However, we have recommended some things in the resolution � but as far as specific things, those will be up to the DOT."

The resolution passed by the council Monday notes that state officials met with individual property owners along Cherry Street and made modifications to the street's initial plan to accommodate needs expressed by Vermillion residents.

The reconstruction project, according to the resolution, will include removal of the existing street surface and replacing it with a durable concrete surface.

It will also include sidewalks, street lights, green space, crosswalks and traffic signals.

Lisa Ketcham of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company told the council that the VCCDC's board of directors unanimously approved a letter of support for the Cherry Street project.

"We would encourage the city to continue to show leadership and support this project and help move it forward," Ketcham said.

Judy Clark, who opposes several aspects of the state's plans, including the widening of a portion of the street to five lanes, said city leaders must look ahead 20 years.

"I'm afraid in 20 years, what you will see won't be a pretty sight," she said, referring to the redesigned Cherry Street.

She gave an example of street design in West Palm Beach, FL, where city planners narrowed streets rather than widened them. The result was slower traffic, greater pedestrian safety and traffic, new shops and apartment buildings along the street, and an increase in property values.

"It's a good thing when people ask tough questions about a project," Clark said. "All of the business owners whose driveways have been restored, the narrower lanes, the crosswalk at SESDAC, and all of the other changes that have been proposed are all due to the fact that DOT felt a compromise was in order in the face of community response.

"Consequentially, we're going to have a safer road now."

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