Sunshine Street has back-to-back signalized intersections with Oak Grove Avenue and Ventura Avenue that can be confusing and sometimes dangerous at times of heavy traffic. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Close calls and frustrations on the route to some fried foods have become the hallmark of a half-mile stretch of East Sunshine Street.

If you’ve tried to make your way from Lone Pine Avenue to Oak Grove, or caught a craving for food from Captain D’s or the Peking House at the wrong time, you’ve probably been caught at the oddly spaced stoplights on East Sunshine Street. Sunshine was the subject of a Missouri Department of Transportation-commissioned study and an in-depth discussion by the Springfield City Council Jan. 31.

The Missouri Department of Transportation employed engineers from Garver, a transportation consulting firm that does traffic and road design studies. Mike Spayd, a senior consultant with Garver, said the intersections at Oak Grove, Ventura and Plaza avenues would be reconfigured immediately, “if we had more money and it was easy and we could do it right away.”

According to the Federal Highway Administration, well-managed arterial roads are overall 40-50 percent safer than poorly managed arterial roads. According to the study data, parts of Sunshine Street are downright dangerous. From 2016 to 202, there were 728 traffic accidents on East Sunshine Street. Five persons were killed, and 13 more suffered disabling injuries. There were 11 accidents involving pedestrians and seven accidents with bicyclists. Two of the five fatalities were pedestrian or bicycle accidents.

“When you look at common crash types, left turn angle collisions happening at those access points and driveways, there were some — because of our unique signal configuration, some instances of red light runs and a need to make those more visible,” Spayd said.

Sunshine will get some upgrades

As part of its statewide transportation improvement plan, MoDOT plans to resurface Sunshine from Glenstone Avenue to Highway 125, improving sidewalks, traffic signals, intersections and general safety and traffic operations. It’s an estimated $8 million project.

“With inflation, you’ll see an increase in that to about $10.7 million,” MoDOT project manager Kristi Bachman said.

The engineers recommended adding medians to divide Sunshine between Luster Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue, and medians extending on each side of U.S. Highway 65 from Mayfair Avenue to Eastgate Avenue. Medians are meant to prevent left turns in certain places, which reduces the likelihood of a collision.

“As part of our study, we took a really deep dive into safety, specifically crash reports and crash data over the five most recent years that we had access to,” Spayd said. “There are likely more minor fender-benders that don’t get reported, or near misses.”

Car counts and traffic flows

The intersection of Sunshine Street and Plaza Avenue (Photo by Rance Burger)

East Sunshine Street accommodates about 32,000 cars per day, which is above the recommended threshold of 28,000 cars per day for a two-way road with five lanes.

“We looked at more than just safety, we also looked at operations,” Spayd said. “We did an inspection of every signal, its condition, its functionality, where upgrades would be needed.”

From Glenstone Avenue to Farm Road 199, there are 11 traffic signals on Sunshine Street. About 2.5 miles of the road are urbanized, and another 2 miles are a more rural, two-lane road. The big issues the transportation consultants identified are a high number of driveway access points, heavy development in some areas, limited and inconsistent pedestrian sidewalks, and uneven spacing of traffic signals.

At the end of the study, Garver made 112 project recommendations valued at more than $14.3 million in today’s dollars. Then they ranked the projects.

“Obviously, the funding doesn’t exist to do that, so we had the prioritization process,” Spayd said.

Widening the corridor is not part of the considerations. The top recommendation is a complete traffic signal rebuild at Sunshine Street and Enterprise Avenue.

Garver also recommends the installation of a pedestrian hybrid beacon just east of Woodward Avenue near a City Utilities bus stop.

“There is about a half-mile stretch where there isn’t a traffic signal and there is pedestrian activity and a bus stop,” Spayd said.

Zooming out for a wider angle

The East Sunshine Street corridor will be resurfaced at an estimated cost of $8 million in 2024. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Street access, intersection design and pedestrian safety are all top-of-mind in several spots in Springfield. From the soon-to-be improved Glenstone Avenue to Grant Avenue Parkway and the contentious zones on Sunshine Street at University Heights and Seminole/Holland, Springfield residents voice concerns about safety, and developers and engineers alike have to account for it.

City Councilman Richard Ollis owns a business on East Sunshine Street. At the council luncheon Jan. 31, he asked what assistance, if any, MoDOT would plan to offer business owners who stand to lose their driveways in the name of street reconstruction.

“The closure of access to some of these entrances is going to create the necessity for these businesses to do additional work to their premise in order for customers to be able to access their facility,” Ollis said.

Ollis asked what could be done to help businesses that run a perceived risk of losing clients, or if the traffic engineering would limit their ability to operate. Sometimes, Bachman said, there is a valid reason to keep a driveway open, like if it is the only way for larger delivery trucks to access a business.

“What we’ve done on some of the other projects in Springfield on Glenstone and Kearney Street is met with those business owners who had concerns about closing an entrance,” Bachman said. “We want to look at each one specifically, talk with the business owner, get their concerns, see if there’s something else that we can do to still get the safety benefit if there is a reason to keep that business open.”

Bachman said there have been 25 driveway closures on Glenstone Avenue and more than 30 driveway closures on Kearney Street.

Ollis said he still has a hard time with putting a cost burden on businesses.

Springfield Traffic Engineer Brett Foster said there are some simple solutions. One is a behavioral change. Drivers in Springfield simply avoid turning across lanes of traffic at certain times of the day, acknowledging that it’s not feasible when traffic is heavy.

“Very few people are making that left hand turn, because you can’t make it,” Foster said.

Another option is to legalize U-turns in more places on Sunshine. U-turns at stop lights, Foster said, can actually be very safe.

“You can make a U-turn at a traffic signal very safely if it’s a protected left hand turn,” Foster said.

Prepare for orange cones

Construction on the East Sunshine corridor project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2024, according to MoDOT. An exact timeline for the project to resurface the road from Glenstone Avenue to Missouri Highway 125 will be made available as the start date nears.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger