APR. 02, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 6

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Under Construction
Road projects steer growth in the area

By Rob Swenson
For the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

Public officials and business leaders generally agree on this sign of community preparation and optimism: Never in the modern history of Sioux Falls has there been more development-ready industrial land available. New residential developments also dot the edges of Sioux Falls, pushing city growth in most directions.

City expansion is bumping against geographic limits in sewerable land in south and southwestern Sioux Falls, which is steering growth in other directions. However, there remains a lot of room for business and residential development, especially in eastern and northwestern Sioux Falls.

Providing the infrastructure to keep the city growing and connected is an increasingly difficult job at the local level because of revenue challenges. But developers say the city has been doing a good job building out utility services and streets to accommodate steady growth.

During the 30-year-span from 1987 to 2017, Sioux Falls grew in physical size from 44.9 square miles to 78.2 square miles, according to city records. During the same span, the city's population increased from about 98,000 to 178,500. The city's population estimate for 2018 is 183,200.

With the expanding size and population of Sioux Falls comes the need for construction that sometimes inconveniences motorists. Local motorists will see and encounter work on several major city and state projects involving streets and highways this construction season and during the next few years.

Big projects will be especially evident along the growing edges of the city. But some significant work will take place in the city's core, too.

"The city is going to continue to put a strong effort on infrastructure to support new development. But the challenge we're going to have, looking further out, is keeping up with demand," said Mike Cooper, the city's director of planning and building services.

In the past, the city has depended significantly on financial support from state and federal governments to assist with infrastructure improvements, and those resources aren't likely to be as readily available in the future, Cooper said.

Meanwhile, building and maintaining infrastructure will remain a big expense. About 90 percent of the city's nearly $468 million capital improvement budget for the next five years is earmarked for infrastructure projects, and more than half of it will be spent on streets and highways.

Sioux Falls plans improvements in time segments that extend out about 40 years, said Mark Cotter, the city's director of public works. Flexible priorities have been set for the next five years, for six to 15 years, and for 16 years and beyond, Cotter said. Project priorities can be updated with changing city needs.

The availability of sewer service is the leading factor that determines the direction of city growth, Cotter said. Developing sewer lines is like assembling a tree: the city puts in the trunk line, and the private sector adds the smaller branches, he said.

Work on projects planned or scheduled on the edges of the city will affect commuters as well as residents.

Kim Cerwick, president and CEO of the Brandon Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, serves on a citizen advisory council for the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Planning Organization. She expects this year's road construction in and around Sioux Falls to present inconveniences similar to last year for commuters.

"We've known that it's coming. I don't know that any citizens have been blindsided," Cerwick said. "Growth comes with some growing pains. It's all going to be great when it's finished. It will make access between our communities better and better. But we're going to have to deal with some headaches in the meantime."

Caution: Road work ahead

This year and during the next few construction seasons, people who live, work or play in Sioux Falls will encounter construction on several busy streets and other roadways. The schedule includes work on the highest-priced state project in South Dakota history, which will extend Veterans Parkway to a new interchange on Interstate 90.

The city's flagship project this year will be on the west side, with the reconstruction of Ellis Road from about 12th Street to 41st Street to accommodate increasing traffic.

Here, as identified by Cooper and Cotter, are six of the most substantial projects that are scheduled by the city or state in or near Sioux Falls. Some of the work will at least temporarily disrupt traffic flow, but ultimately transportation connectivity in Sioux Falls will be greatly improved, officials said.

1. Improved eastside entry

A new stretch of Veterans Parkway - formerly Highway 100 - will run more than a mile, from Rice Street to I-90, helping create a new and improved gateway to northeastern Sioux Falls. It's a multiyear state project valued at nearly $54.7 million. "This is the largest bid letting we've had in our state's history," said Travis Dressen, Sioux Falls area engineer for the S.D. Department of Transportation. Timberline Avenue south of I-90 already has been closed, and a portion of East 60th Street will be realigned. Work on the interchange on I-90 won't begin until 2019, which will bring the temporary closure of on and off ramps on the eastbound lanes. Completion of the overall project is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2020, Dressen said.

2. Arrowhead Parkway improvements

Eastside work will continue for a second year on expansion and access improvements on Arrowhead between Veterans Parkway and Sycamore Avenue. The cost for the city project is approaching $10 million. Some disruptions in traffic might occur, but work at a key intersection that sometimes bottlenecked traffic was completed last year, Cotter said.

3. Ellis Road expansion

The city will convert a two-lane, rural road into a modern, four-lane urban street. It's a $12.2 million project will require the closure of the street to north-south traffic. However, intersections at 12th, 26th and 41st will remain open throughout the construction period to accommodate east-west traffic, according to Cotter and his staff. Other intersections along Ellis Road will be shut down temporarily as construction moves along the new street.

4. Southern link

A 3.3-mile stretch of South Minnesota Avenue between 85th Street and the growing suburban community of Harrisburg is being widened to four lanes by the state to accommodate increasing traffic between Sioux Falls and several communities in southeastern South Dakota and northwestern Iowa. Work on the project will close segments of the roadway to traffic. Construction is expected to begin this year and continue next year, Dressen said.

5. Central upgrades

Preparatory work has begun for the reconstruction of the part of East 26th that crosses Interstate 229. The city is moving Rotary Park from the east side of the Big Sioux River to the west side. A pedestrian bridge will connect the two sides. The relocation of the street entry to the park will allow 26th Street to be elevated to pass over an existing railroad track. When work is finished, motorists will no longer be blocked by trains crossing at street level. The project also will improve entrances and exits to I-229. Actual street work won't begin until next year, when motorists can expects detours. Street construction could take two years.

6. 69th Street enhancement

West 69th Street will be widened to four lanes from Louise Avenue to Medical Court in the growing healthcare area by the Avera Heart Hospital in southwestern Sioux Falls. The city is currently designing the project, which involves about three-fourths a mile of roadway. Construction will take place in 2019.

Two other projects discussed by Cotter and Cooper are worth noting because of their potentially significant, long-term impact on business development:

  • Uptown upgrades: A lane of Dakota Avenue between Sixth and Eighth Streets will be removed by the city as part of a redesign project that will create features such as pedestrian-friendly bump-outs and more room for parking. In addition, by early summer the tracks and ties for several railroad spur lines will be removed to open more area in the city's core for redevelopment, Cotter said. Two main rail lines will remain accessible in the downtown area. Utility work in the area could result in some temporary, one-block detours.
  • Potential interchange: This project is not scheduled for construction yet, but it could be a big one. The city is working with the state, Lincoln County, city of Tea and private landowners to create a new interchange on Interstate 29 at 85th Street in southwestern Sioux Falls. "It's probably out in the 2020-21 time frame," Cooper said. The project would create a new, southern gateway to Sioux Falls as well as enhance traffic access in the Tea area.

Developers generally satisfied

Joel Ingle, a developer with C-Lemme Companies, LLC, said the improved interstate gateway in northeastern Sioux Falls will dramatically alter traffic patterns and fuel business and residential growth in the area.

"That project has been a long time coming," Ingle said. "For the last 10 years or more, I've said the biggest (infrastructure need in the city) is the I-90 connection on South Dakota 100. To develop residential, you need to have connections to schools, jobs and services."

Connecting Veterans Parkway to I-90 will provide that desired connectivity as well as help C-Lemme and other companies develop business and residential land, Ingle said.

The possible interchange at 85th Street and I-29 in the southwest has similarly significant potential to change traffic patterns, Ingle said. He noted that Citi is building its new credit card center in the area. Sanford Health is among the other organizations with land in the area.

RMB Associates, LLC is among the other companies with land in the northeast. The commercial real estate development company also has been looking forward to the extension of Veterans Parkway, or Highway 100, said Joel Dykstra, CEO of RMB.

Prioritizing projects is a challenging responsibility for the city because a lot of competing needs have to be balanced, Dykstra said, but the city does about as well as it can, given its limited resources. "It's not all about new infrastructure. You also have to maintain what you've already built," Dykstra said.

Raquel Blount, vice president of commercial real estate for Lloyd Companies, said street improvements such as those in the northeast will help retail developments such as Dawley Farm Village. As the developer of the Dawley Farm area, Lloyd Cos. also has been waiting for the project to come to fruition. Blount understands funding restraints, however.

She is concerned about the future impact of the slowing growth in city funding sources, including the sales tax. But, she adds, "I think the city is doing everything they can so that we can sustain well-planned, steady growth."

Ronning Companies is among the businesses with development land on the west side of Sioux Falls. Improvement of Ellis Road will reduce driving hazards in a part of town with increasing traffic, said Chuck Point, vice president of Ronning, and that's important.

Traffic on the west side is no longer just people driving to and from work. Increasingly, motorists are driving to destinations such as businesses, Point said. "You've got to get the road improved so that it can handle the traffic moving in that area," he said.

Point agrees that the city is doing a good job keeping its infrastructure extended for continued growth. "Is it perfect? No, but they'd need unlimited money for that," Point said. "I think with the resources they have, they do a good job."

Somehow, infrastructure in Sioux Falls is going to have to keep expanding to keep up with population growth, said Bob Thimjon of the Ramkota Companies, who chairs the Sioux Falls Development Foundation Board of Directors.

"When you add 4,000 people a year - there's a lot of places in South Dakota where that would be considered a pretty good-sized town," he said.

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