State DOT pitches 'super two-lane' as idea for highway to handle Mitchell soybean plant

·3 min read

Jul. 20—MITCHELL — As South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) officials work to account for a potentially higher traffic volume near the location of a proposed soybean plant south of Mitchell, conversation focused on transitioning a stretch of highway to a "super two-lane."

During the July 13 SDDOT meeting in Mitchell, Mike Behm, director of planning and engineering for the department, spoke of what's dubbed a super two-lane highway as a potential idea to accommodate the increase in traffic the soybean plant is projected to bring to South Dakota Highway 37.

A super two-lane includes an additional lane on a portion of a two-lane highway that allows vehicles to pass along a busy corridor, according to Behm.

Despite the conversation, Behm emphasized the super two-lane is merely a potential option that has not been decided on.

"Not saying it would look like that or could look like that, but that may be an option as we see a higher traffic volume there," Behm said of the portion of Highway 37. "We are looking at putting in more in the future."

While the Davison County Commission approved a conditional use permit for the South Dakota Soybean Processors to build a $500 million soybean processing plant about a couple miles south of Mitchell next to the highway, nearby residents have echoed concerns about whether the two-lane highway could handle the projected increase in trucks and traffic utilizing the facility.

Officials with South Dakota Soybean Processors (SDSP) have said the plant-related traffic is projected at 183 vehicles per day in year one, while moving up to 232 vehicles by year five, marking an increase of 26%. At its peak, SDSP anticipates nearly 450 trucks per day during harvest season.

At the July 12 Davison County Commission meeting when the soybean plant's conditional use permit was approved, Bob Weiss, a resident who lives near the south edge of Mitchell, urged the soybean company to convince the state to turn the highway into a four-lane to handle the traffic.

"If you could twist the arm of the state to make it four lanes, that would be a great thing," he said. "Another accident is going to happen one of these days."

As an example, Behm pointed to a super-two lane that's being constructed near the Ipswich region in northeast South Dakota.

The soybean plant is in the process of having a third-party conduct a traffic study to determine the future needs of the highway and intersections impacted by the plant. The study will be turned over to the SDDOT once complete. Ultimately, the SDDOT will make the final call on what needs to be done for the two-lane highway to handle the expected influx of traffic and trucks.

If there are road improvements necessary for the plant, Jay Peppel, Mitchell area engineer with the SDDOT, previously said the developer will pay for those improvements, whether it's a state or county road, noting the SDDOT will be administering those improvements. According to Peppel, the 20-year outlook for traffic counts on Highway 37 is expected to climb nearly 6,500 vehicles per day.