Last week 29 residents of East Center Street in Madison signed and submitted to the Madison City Commission a letter asking that the city prohibit truck traffic on their newly reconstructed street. East Center most directly connects Highway 34 and the Madison stockyard. From Washington Avenue, the two-lane street runs through an entirely residential neighborhood, with a park, playground, and hockey rink east of Garfield Avenue.
This week the Madison City Commission acknowledges letters from two loci of Madison power, John Goeman and the Chamber of Commerce, who oppose truck restrictions on East Center Street. Chamber director Rosie Jamison simply expresses her board's opinion that since Madison Livestock Sales Co. (a dues-paying member of the Chamber of Commerce) "provides significant commerce to our community," its customers ought to be able to use East Center to conduct their business.
John Goeman's letter provides a little more amusement. He opens by telling East Center residents to quit complaining. "Any resident who lives on East Center Street knew that Madison Livestock existed before they bought their home," says Goeman, positing the notion that if you buy a house, you are obliged to accept the sale-time conditions of that neighborhood exactly the way they are, forever. Homeowners can never work for improvements or changes in their neighborhoods.
Second, Goeman questions whether the city can use state funding to fix a street and then limit types of traffic on it. Hmm... it looks to me as if the city can do that under South Dakota Codified Law 32-14-7, which allows local authorities to prohibit trucks and other commercial vehicles from designated highways. I see no conditions making that authority dependent on funding sources.
Goeman wraps up by turning to the same pro-business contention as the Chamber. He says that if we want Madison to "prosper," we can't limit traffic on East Center. Now of course, we're not talking "prospering"; we're just talking maintaining the status quo. And East Center residents aren't talking about shutting down the stockyard; they're talking about diverting semis out of a residential area that saw its street pulverized by heavy commercial traffic over the last several years. Let's take a look at the map, courtesy of Google:
If the city granted East Center residents' request, folks hauling livestock from west of Madison would come in to town on Highway 34, as usual. Then, instead of turning south on 34 at Washington, they'd continue east on Old 34, which has four lanes. They'd turn south at Division Avenue, pass through three fewer blocks of residential area, then turn east to the stockyards on the that last gravel spur of East Center. They'll hardly notice the extra block of mileage caused by taking that little curve on Old 34. Plus, they won't have to execute that quick lane change at the Washington intersection, where, if they are driving properly (and you all do this, right?), they stay in the far right lane as they turn, they switch to the left lane, then switch to the turning lane, all within two quick blocks in a big truck.
Folks hauling livestock from south and east of town would face the biggest detour. They'd come up Highway 34 from Prostrollo's, then, instead of turning at Center, would have to go two blocks further north to Old 34. They get four blocks of extra grief.
Of course, folks hauling critters from the north and east may face no detour. If they're already coming in on Old 34, they're already taking Division to the stockyard.
If Madison's prosperity hinges on sparing a few dozen trucks a week a four-block detour on a wider, safer road, then Madison needs to diversify its economy.
It's worth noting that John Goeman has been one of the prime boosters behind the "Four for the Future" campaign to widen Highway 34 east of Madison to four lanes. One of the main contentions Goeman and backers have made for this massive expenditure of tax dollars is that a four-lane highway would be much safer with all the ag-related traffic on 34. The residents of East Center are asking the city to divert ag-related traffic to a four-lane road. Goeman's letter shows that business is a more important consideration in his highway calculus than safety.