It’s been talked about for years in Brookings.
Now, it could be on the road to reality if a federal grant comes through.
We’re talking about a proposed I-29 interchange which some say could ease traffic and boost business in the college town.
Medary Acres Greenhouses is planted on the south side of Brookings.
Over the years, co-owner Lynn Darnall has watched the area blossom.
“This business has been here 65 years and we were actually in a field when it started 65 years ago,” Medary Acres Greenhouses Co-owner Lynn Darnall said.
Today, the former farm field is a well established part of town.
Darnall thinks it could benefit from the proposed southern interchange that’s been sprouting interest for decades.
Here’s the issue.
Growing residential areas are located on the west side of the interstate in the southwest part of town.
“A number of our major employers are located on the east side of I-29,” Brookings Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Al Heuton said.
Here’s the plan.
Right now, a lot of traffic is forced to cross the interstate at the sixth street interchange, unless of course you want to travel down to the Elkton exit.
This proposed I-29 interchange at 20th Street would ease traffic by giving people another option.
“There is no good way to get across the interstate right now if you live on the south side of Brookings,” Heuton said.
Daktronics is on the east side of the interstate. It employs about 1,500 people at its Brookings location.
Well over half of those employees live west of I-29.
The proposed interchange could help people get to and from work.
“We believe it would cut the commute time in half for our employees,” Daktronics VP of HR Carla Gatzke says.
CFO Sheila Anderson is one of them.
Right now she takes the Elkton exit to get to work, but if the proposed interchange were a reality today…
“I would get on the interstate right there. It would save me time,” Daktronics CFO Sheila Anderson said.
The plan may not just take the trouble out of travel.
Supporters of the project say it may build new business in the area too.
Mills Development Corporation is behind the Prairie Hills development in southwest Brookings.
On top of bringing a variety of housing options to the area, President John Mills also plans on adding services including a grocery story.
He says the interchange will improve the business climate.
“If you look around us, that’s where all the residential growth is happening. This is where the growth has to happen. It will accelerate it and in particular make it more desirable for business,” Mills Development Corporation President John Mills said.
With any major project comes a price tag.
In this case, about $19 million.
Here’s the plan to pay for it.
A federal grant would take care of about $12 million.
The city and county would chip in about $5.6 million total.
And about $1.8 million in private money would be invested.
Brookings Economic Development Corporations Executive Director Al Heuton hopes to know by December if the federal grant has been awarded to the project.
“The city and county are very committed to the project. If the grant is funded they certainly will move forward,” Heuton said.
Kelli Volk: What if you don’t get the grant money? What happens?
Heuton: If we don’t get the grant funds we’ll keep trying to pursue other opportunities. The need is not going to go away.
She just hopes the project doesn’t lead to any negative consequences in the area where it’s planned to take shape.
“We’ve grown larger than the access that we do have now so I do believe that something does need to be done as long as it’s well thought out,” Darnall said.
After all, this is the community where her roots run deep.
Heuton says the project wouldn’t displace any homes or businesses.
He added the golf course wouldn’t be negatively impacted.