3 mins read

What’s Up With the Traffic Lights on Cherry Street?

Every morning, I wake up, get dressed and drive to campus. During this drive, I ask a question in my head as I drive south on Dakota Street: how long will it take to cross Cherry Street?

Some days, I wait very little, others, much longer. Once in a blue moon, I roll up on a green light and don’t even need to stop. 

As every Vermillion resident and USD student knows, the traffic light timing on Cherry Street is interesting to say the least. In fact, it’s one of the first things I noticed while waiting to turn left from Cottage Avenue onto Cherry Street, wondering if the traffic light was broken (I now refuse to make a left at this intersection). It’s almost as bad as the intersection with Plum Street.

During peak traffic, it makes sense cars traveling down Cherry Street have the right of way. However, the lights remain poky at all hours of the day. I feel like a chump waiting 45 seconds for the light to change at 10:30 p.m. 

These traffic lights contrast with the one at Dakota Street and Main Street; it changes very quickly and is responsive to traffic. The reason: they are controlled by two different agencies. 

The city of Vermillion administers the Dakota/Main traffic light. In contrast, Cherry Street was once SD Highway 50. Now that a bypass exists to the north of Vermillion, Cherry Street is officially the Highway 50 Business Loop, making it a state highway under the control of the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT). 

Here I was thinking the city of Vermillion fired their traffic engineer. It would be more difficult for the Vermillion city council to play ‘Pontius Pilate’ by ignoring complaints from their community members than it is for the SDDOT hours away. 

The great pyramids of Egypt were built thousands of years with exceptional precision, airplanes fly people across the planet in mere hours, and yet we can’t figure out how to time five lights properly.

This problem represents a microcosm of a much larger issue in the country: decisions are not made by those who are impacted. While voters in both parties come from many backgrounds, the politicians often come from the same.

Life experiences shape our political views. If everyone in charge of fixing a problem has the same upbringing, they’ll only see the problem from one angle. 

As an intern in Washington last summer, I saw how clueless some decision makers in both parties were. Living inside the DC Beltway offers a nice refuge from reality across the rest of our nation.

The SDDOT should eliminate the Highway 50 Business Loop, thus giving autonomy of Cherry Street to the city (or at least let them time the lights). Write to the SDDOT and let them know! 

We have enough problems in this country, but I believe we can make things better if we make a conscious and constant effort to do so; Cherry Street is just one example of how we can make our community and country better.