‘Life Will Be Sweet on Cherry Street’

'Life Will Be Sweet on Cherry Street'
"Life will be sweet on Cherry Street."

That's the public relations theme of the Cherry Street reconstruction project, set to start next month in Vermillion.

There likely will be noise, minor traffic snarls, and new challenges to pedestrians and to homes and businesses whose driveways to the street may be blocked.

But South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT) officials, working with D&G Concrete Construction, Inc., the project's prime contractor from Sioux Falls, told Vermillion citizens Monday that a concerted effort will be made to minimize citizens' and motorists' hardships during the reconstruction.

"We look forward to kicking this (project) off in a positive manner, and getting your feedback," said Ron Peterson, area engineer for the DOT office out of Yankton, at a public meeting held in Vermillion's National Guard Armory.

When completed, workers will have widened some portions of this major east-west thoroughfare that runs through the heart of the city. The entire length of the street that will be reconstructed is three-and-a-half miles.

"It's a lot of work when you add up everything we want to accomplish in two years," Peterson said. "Adding left turn lanes is probably one of the biggest things we're doing with this project to improve safety and improve traffic flow, and reduce accidents."

The stretch runs from Highway 19 on the west to the beginning of the divided highway east of Vermillion.

The highway runs through The University of South Dakota campus and a business district which includes strip malls, restaurants and convenience stores.

Cherry Street was originally constructed in 1952, with the last improvement coming in 1980. The

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average daily traffic count, which stood at 10,205 vehicles in 2002, is expected to rise to 14,780 in 2022, according to DOT estimates.

The upcoming project includes widening the section between James Street and Cottage Avenue to three lanes, replacing the section between Cottage and Plum with the same lane configuration and widening the section from Plum to Crawford Street to five lanes

West of town, near Holmes Welding, a new turn lane will be constructed that will make the nearby intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 19 safer.

"And out on the east end of town, where the bypass loops around," Peterson said, "there is a reverse curve that has caused some accidents, and we're going to improve that and reconstruct that ramp."

Peterson said traffic would be maintained at all times during the street construction.

"Workers will be building one half of the road while traffic is carried two-way on the other half of the road," he said. "You will experience some congestion, and some possible delays, but we will try to maintain access to all businesses and homes as much as is practical. We're going to try to make it as painless as we can, but there will be some inconveniences."

Workers will tear up the present surface of the street, and replace it with new concrete. A host of other projects will be going on at the same time to take advantage of the time when the road is without its surface.

"We've got some older water mains and sewer mains in portions of that project," said Harold Holoch, utilities engineer for the city of Vermillion. "We would not want to leave them under the new concrete paving and then possibly have to come back in 10 or 15 years and replace them, and tear up a fairly new street."

Holoch said new city water and sanitary sewer lines would be installed in conjunction with the street work, at a cost of approximately $765,000 to the city. Helping to alleviate this financial burden is a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) received by the city for about 30 percent of that project's price tag.

"The city will be replacing approximately 6,400 feet of water main, and 4,300 feet of sanitary sewer main, with this project," Holoch said, "and an additional 2,300 feet of water services and 2,200 feet of sewer services."

Ron Avery, manager of the Hy-Vee store in Vermillion, represented the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company (VCDC) at the meeting. He said the VCDC's goal is to keep the public informed of the work as it progresses on the street, and to share information that would be valuable to motorists who must travel to The University of South Dakota or to businesses along Cherry.

"We will have block leaders at each block of Cherry Street," he said. "They will be your go-to people when it comes to your block, and they will get information out to you as the work gets near."

A public relations effort also will be undertaken, Avery said, to make sure necessary information is spread throughout the community.

" 'Life will be sweet on Cherry Street' will be our marketing plan, and we just want to make sure that things run very smoothly, and all businesses stay positive. There will be a lot of hurdles to overcome during this project, but if we keep communication at a very high level, we think everyone will be smiling by 2009."

Gregory Branaugh, president of D&G Concrete Construction, Inc., said his company has a great deal of experience with large street projects in urban areas, including several major thoroughfares in Sioux Falls.

"As long as everyone has patience and we all try to work together and minimize the inconvenience … the faster we can complete what we need to do each day, the sooner the entire project will be finished," he said.

Branaugh is hoping the frost will sufficiently be out of the ground by April 1 to allow his crews to begin construction. They will start on the east end of Cherry near Crawford, he said. The first phase of the work, set to end in August, will reconstruct the street from Crawford west to Plum Street.

"The first part that we are going to build is the north half of the roadway," he said. "So the traffic is going to be on the south side. Once we get the north side built, we will tear out the south side and rebuild that, and traffic will be on the new concrete on the north side."

After that work is completed in August, D&G will begin the second phase of the project, which includes reconstructing Cherry from Plum west to Dakota Street.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to finish that sometime in November," Branaugh said. While working on that stretch of street, D&G will replace a soon-to-be erected temporary turn signal at the intersection of Cherry and Princeton with a permanent signal.

In 2009, workers will reconstruct the street from Dakota east to Cottage. A small portion of the street will be closed, and traffic will be detoured to a nearby service road.

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