Following the initial communiqué from the mayor, Sioux Falls Fire Chief Jim Sideras took initiative to monitor the 41st Street and Cliff Avenue intersection.  He shared his findings with Mayor Mike Huether and that message was relayed to Viewpoint University.

All – the Mayor received a complaint from a listener on the KSOO radio show concerning 41st and Cliff Ave. The caller stated that the problem is traffic traveling east bound trying to get on to Cliff to go south is backed up on 41st. It can take several cycles of the stoplight before cars can get on to Cliff southbound. The drivers waiting to go south stop at the yield sign at Cliff and wait for an opening.

I was on 41st the last two days around 5 PM and as the caller described, the traffic was backed up from Cliff Ave to the 700 block of east 41st or about 5 blocks. The problem is magnified during rush hour and when school is in session.

This causes some drivers to u-turn and then go west on 41st to Pam Rd reroute east back to Cliff. Depending on where you are in the queue, some cars did do this and got on to Cliff sooner than waiting. Some people are going from 41st to Phillips then to 38th and then east to Cliff Ave. This is quicker to go south on Cliff but is putting more cars into residential areas and past an elementary school.

One driver drove all the way to Cliff and rather than turning left (he was in the left or north turning lane) they turned right (south) on to Cliff and it was much quicker than waiting the four block queue of cars. The person in the proper turning lane on 41st would not turn south on Cliff until the east lane was open and the above driver essentially bypassed the problem with no waiting time.

Here is what appears to be happening:

1.       A driver wanting to go south on Cliff will wait until the east (southbound) lane on Cliff is open instead of getting on Cliff into the west (southbound) lane which is the lane they should access on to Cliff. It seems to be because it is difficult to merge into the east lane before 49th St. Waiting for the east lane to be clear backs up waiting traffic on 41st. See photo “waiting to turn into east lane” as you can see the west (southbound) lane is clear but driver waits to go into the east lane.

2.       Drivers coming off I-229 and wanting to go south on Cliff will drive around the blocked or full east lane and go into the west lane (southbound). There are not a lot of cars doing this, but those cars then make the cars on 41st not enter Cliff, which again backs up cars on 41st.

3.       Drivers already on Cliff southbound and in the east lane often stop to let cars trying to get on I-229 westbound cross Cliff, which creates grid lock on to 41st and Cliff Av. This exacerbates the above two issues. This practice also has caused some accidents as drives cross Cliff to access I-229 and hit someone using the west (southbound) lane on Cliff. See photo “west lane open” which is what is happening in the photo.

A fix may be:

1.       Signage at on 41st at Cliff east bound at the corner and  on the I229 off ramp about driving into the correct lane. See photo “signage”

(Courtesy of Jim Sideras)

2.       Having all red lights for south bound and green for north bound Cliff for a longer period to allow those cars on 41st wanting to go south on to Cliff time to get on to Cliff without competition from other drivers. This would be during peak problem times 1630-1800 and maybe during after school hours.

3.       Along with number 2, install a stop light rather than yield sign and that would work in conjunction with number 2 turning green and allowing those wanting to go south and access point. This is similar to what is used in the Twin Cities for their lights for allowing access to the interstate. When not in use it would flash yellow.

I hope that all makes sense. Let me know if I can help.


More details on how this matter comes to resolution as they become available.  Part of the process will include a visit to the Faculty Lounge of KSOO’s Viewpoint University by Principal Traffic Engineer Heath Hoftiezer on Tuesday.  The 41st and Cliff intersection along with other traffic topics will be discussed from 4:15 to 5pm CT.