Cruisin’ the Streets of Brookings

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

Spend a few of your college years driving around the city of Brookings and you’re bound to notice a few things about the streets. For one: the dips. They seem to be everywhere. Their point?

Students are a little shaky on their purpose, too.

“At intersections they cause people to slow down,” offers freshman Kyle Nebelsick, an Agriculture Systems Technology major.

Senior biology major Nancy Heine ponders that way, too.

“They’re probably there for speeds … and for drainage,” she adds.

Actually, it’s all about the drainage, not about slowing drivers down, acting City Engineer Jackie Lanning explains.

“The city of Brookings is rather flat and we have not a lot of underground storm sewers, so the city has installed these dips,” she says. “They’re called valley gutters — they allow water to flow across the intersection without damaging the asphalt.”

So they’re meant for drainage, but that whole slowing down thing happens anyway. While Nebelsick doesn’t mind that side effect (“I think it’s actually a good thing,” he says), Heine finds them more annoying.

“I don’t like them because they make me slow down,” she says. With her old car, she says she occasionally would scrape her car going across the dips, but notes, “You have to hit it pretty hard.”

The city tries hard to take the bite out of the drainage dips, Lanning says.

“Years ago they used to put in a 3-foot-wide valley gutter, and now they’ve gone up to a 5-foot,” she says, “so it’s a little more gradual, less steep. That’s one improvement we have tried to make.”

Dips aside … what about the signage? Personal observation shows relatively few uncontrolled intersections (at least on the streets I frequent).

Lanning says, “Over the years as the city has received complaints we’ve added some yields and tried to create a visual route, tried to make one street a through street and put yields on the others.”

Heine and Nebelsick both appreciate the signage in town.

“I think the number [of signs] is fine,” Heine says. “I hate in towns where they don’t have marked intersections.”

Nebelsick agrees, saying that the signs help with traffic regulation.

Lots of dips, lots of signs. And lots of streetlamps. While Paul Melby, utility operation manager for Brookings Municipal Utilities doesn’t know if Brookings has an extraordinary number of lights, he says the 2,408 lamps in town serve Brookings well.

“It’s reasonably well lit,” he says. “The main thoroughfares are well lit.”

Melby says most streetlamps are 180 feet apart but their brightness varies depending if they are on a residential street or a major highway. In his experience, Brookings doesn’t stand out from other towns when it comes to lighting.

“We should be very similar to other places.”

Similar in the number of police officers, too?

Mark Whaley, a lieutenant in the Brookings Police Department, thinks that Brookings’ 27 cops matches up well to other cities.

“I worked with officers from other places across the state — we had a real similar per capita/officer ratio.”

In Brookings, that works out to about one officer for every 685 people, which is enough for Heine.

“I think we have plenty of cops,” she says. “I see at least one a day.”

Plenty for Nebelsick, too.

“We have probably just about as much as we need,” he says.