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Burr Street businesses look to overcome construction

Traffic flows along South Burr Street on Friday morning in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The worst part is over.

The $15.7 million renovation of Burr Street has caused a few problems for Mitchell businesses, with the temporary closure of the intersection with Norway Avenue making a noticeable impact on the McDonald's at the south end of town. But for the most part, Bruce Haines thinks the project has moved along pretty smoothly since the Norway intersection was reopened.

"The worst part of the construction seems to be over," said Haines, Porter Stores' director of operations overseeing the two McDonald's locations in city limits.

The major reconstruction collaboration between the South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT) and the city of Mitchell is ultimately meant to improve safety by reducing congestion near Arby's and McDonald's while adding new concrete surfaces, roadway lighting, signals and curb and gutter work.

Since the project kicked off, Haines acknowledged there has been an impact at McDonald's, which he categorized as an impulse-driven business which thrives when customers get within three minutes or three miles of the store. And if it appears difficult to get to the store, a driver might avoid making a quick pitstop for a bite to eat.

Mitchell City Council President Jeff Smith empathized with businesses like McDonald's as they fight to maintain typical revenue through the summer tourism season.

"I can understand where their frustration would come into play with having it torn up the way it is, and some of the businesses out there, it's the busiest time of the year," Smith said.

Haines said there's no doubt the south side McDonald's has taken a hit this summer. While locals will find their way around construction, Haines said visitors to Mitchell are less likely to stop by if it's challenging to enter the parking lot.

Although construction has been a slight hindrance on business, Haines was impressed with the Department of Transportation and the city of Mitchell's ability to direct traffic with additional signage. And overall, Haines said the project is going better than expected in many respects.

Just down the road from McDonald's, Campbell's Supply is feeling "fortunate" the lengthy construction project isn't making much of an impact on sales.

Store Manager Stan Peterson said the location that sells everything from automotive supplies to farm equipment has benefitted from being more of a destination business than an impulse stop.

And unlike McDonald's, the typical entrance to Campbell's Supply has yet to be closed due to construction.

"Basically, our location, the access apparently isn't terrible for people to get here," Peterson said.

'Be patient'

And according to DOT's Mitchell Area Project Engineer Rick Brandner, the department is doing its best to ensure smooth traffic flow and easy business access throughout the major Mitchell thoroughfare.

"It's going pretty smoothly, but no matter what you do you're always affecting the businesses," Brander said. "So we want to make sure we maintain access to businesses at all times."

To ensure every business can be accessed, Brandner said they construct one side of an intersection or one access point a time to avoid blocking customers from entering a business.

But DOT has received some calls from businesses wondering why certain stores get signs and others don't. Brandner said the only businesses that get signs are those with an entrance that's been impacted by construction. Those where the typical approach is unencumbered do not get a sign directing traffic toward the business.

Brandner said the first phase of the project is set to beat its Nov. 17 completion date, although weather will be a factor, before kicking off the project south of Interstate 90 to Spruce Street in 2018. Next year's work is expected to start in April.

And Brandner asked drivers and business owners to bear with him until construction can be completed.

"Just be patient," Brandner said. "We're trying our best to get this job built as efficiently as possible, and so far traffic's been really, really good."

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