A celebratory snip of a bright red ribbon marked the completion of a new ribbon of highway – mainly Cherry Street – in Vermillion late last week.
The ceremony, held by members of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, Vermillion elected officials and city staff, and construction crew members, also symbolized the end of two years worth of work in which the old Cherry Street surface was removed, new water and sewer lines were put into place, and additional turning lanes and other improvements were added to what has become Vermillion's leading east-west thoroughfare.
The first phase of Cherry Street reconstruction began in the spring of 2008. The final goal, when all of the work is complete this year, is to replace approximately three miles of Cherry Street and all infrastructures during the two construction phases last year and this year. This included replacing the pavement as well as installing new signals, curb and gutter, driveways, lighting, and greenery.
The primary reasons for the upgrade are safety and improved access management. Phase one of the project, completed in 2008, extends from Plum Street to the east where it meets Highway 50. The portion of Cherry Street completed in that phase has five lanes with the center lane becoming a turn lane.
In phase two, which was begun in March, workers began where they left off from phase one, reconstructing the street from the end of phase one's improvement's west to Cottage Street. It consists of three lanes with the center lane designated as a turn lane.
Yankton Area Engineer for the Department of Transportation Ron Peterson said the Cherry Street work was necessary because its concrete surface has reached the end of its usable life. Cherry Street was constructed in 1952. The last time it was improved was 1980.
"The drainage system, the storm sewer system also was in poor condition," he said, "and the city itself has water and sewer improvements along the street that needed to be done. Pedestrian issues through the campus of USD with the various intersections were also addressed as part of this project to improve the safety and the movement of the students."
Lighting and traffic signals along Cherry Street have also been upgraded to new standards. "There are just quite a number of things that enhance the mobility of the motorists and pedestrians, and improves the overall safety of the corridor."
Turning lanes were added at Cherry Street's intersections with Dakota, Pine, Plum and Princeton streets. "Plus the addition of a left turn lane all the way through is an overall safety enhancement," Peterson said.
The total price tag for the South Dakota Department of Transportation project is just under $10 million. Major contractor for the project was D & G Concrete from Sioux Falls.
Motorists who pass through Vermillion have gotten used to taking detours and dodging construction work for much of the past two years.
It will probably be at least 20 years before workers will have to return to the street to complete minor repairs and maintenance work to the street.
"I think our contractor and our subcontractors did a very good, quality project," Peterson said. "From all of our testing and inspection and monitoring of the work, we feel we've got a very high quality project here in Vermillion that should give an exceptional service life. We would hope to see 50 years from that work before any major reconstruction will have to be done again."
He praised the citizens of Vermillion for being patient with workers as they battled weather delays and were forced to re-route traffic to complete all of the improvements to the street during the past two years.
"Everybody has been really good to work with," Peterson said. "There were a few rocks in the road here and there, but that's common to work with during any construction project. The folks of Vermillion have been very accommodating, very friendly, the students and the city personnel have been very helpful, and the DOT is grateful for all of that."