Local boosters have been pushing to expand Highway 34 east of Madison from two to four lanes all the way to I-29. Now Scott Jansen from the South Dakota Department of Transportation has come through for us, saying that state officials want to make Highway 34 a five-lane road... through Madison.
Don't worry, DeLon (and fellow Blizzard lovers): SDDoT isn't planning to bulldoze Dairy Queen. The engineers just want to repaint 2nd Street and Washington Avenue: erase the stripes, draw a fat yellow turning lane down the middle, and draw skinny little lanes on either side.
According to MDL's Chuck Clement, Jansen told the Madison City Commission Monday that SDDot came to Madison and Discovered the Unexpected™: 18 left-turn related accidents from 2004 to 2006.
Jansen says center turn lanes in other towns have reduced accidents 10% to 30%. Jansen says he also expects to get phone calls and complaints if the changes are made.
Gee, why wait that long?
- Scott Jansen, Mitchell Region Traffic Engineer: 605-995-8136
- Mitchell Region SDDoT Office: 605-995-8129
Anyone remember how narrow the lanes felt on 6th Street in Brookings? Those of us who prefer to ride bicycle do. Cars come close enough as it is to us cyclists; we don't need those side mirrors coming any closer.
Engineer Jansen says narrower lanes won't be a problem, since newer cars are typically smaller. Engineer Jansen must not have noticed all the pickup trucks, trailers, tractors, and whatever giant SUVs may have rolled off Prostrollo's lot lately that can use all the room on Madison's streets that they can get.
Does Engineer Jansen remember what happened last time the state blessed us with a center turn lane? When the state redid Highway 34 (help me out here: was it 1991?), the engineers slapped a big turning lane right down the middle. Lake County drivers didn't know what the heck to do with it. It seemed like a waste of concrete to have that big center strip lying empty 99% of the time. Within a year, the state relaid the stripes (that's why the concrete seams run down the middle of the driving lanes west of town).
That change increased the West 34 from three lanes to four, but we had shoulder to spare out by Nicky's and the F&M. In town, we don't have that wiggle room. A center turn lane in town on 34 is just overkill. It will make driving through town more dangerous, not less, for motorists and cyclists alike. The only was a center turn lane would work is if we physically widened the highway... and I'm thinking my property-owning friends along 34 would have a few words to say about that.*
We don't need to rejigger Highway 34 in town. Neighbors, just start using your left blinker sooner, and keep your eyes peeled. Engineer Jansen, pick up your slide rule and your extra lane and take 'em out east of town, where the nice folks on Lake Madison want 'em.
*Besides, adding a lane would mean Dollar General would have to move its sign, and we can't have that.