SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – With more people using drive-thru services as a way to get a meal because indoor restaurant seating is either closed or limited, you may have noticed a lot more traffic tie-ups around popular food chains these days.
It’s noon time at Campbell and Sunshine in Springfield and cars are pouring into the Chick-fil-A to the point that a long line forms down Sunshine, even clogging up the intersection. The popularity of this food chain has spawned traffic jams since it opened here way before the pandemic hit but Springfield Traffic Operations Engineer Derrick Estell believes the COVID-19 pandemic and people opting for the drive-thru over indoor dining is definitely playing a role in the increased traffic at several local food establishments.
“Honestly with the unknowns that come along with COVID-19 it’s probably something that was unanticipated and something that wasn’t captured within our current codes,” he said.
Drivers around Springfield have no doubt witnessed such scenes at one time or another.
On a beautiful weekend evening you might see cars backed up on Sunshine as cars try to get into Andy’s Frozen Custard with traffic taking up one westbound lane almost all the way to U.S. 65.
Or in the early morning in south Springfield you’ll encounter a line stretching several blocks from a Dunkin’ Donuts location onto Campbell Avenue causing a bottle neck of commuters trying to make their way into town.
“I’ve seen it backed up to a standstill on Campbell and it’s very unsafe,” said Mackenzie Brown who makes the trip around 8 a.m. most days. “Apparently their coffee is very good but I’m not sure if it’s that good.”
Jackie Mayo is another Springfield driver whose travels take her by both Dunkin’ Donuts and Chick-fil-A.
“At the Dunkin’ Donuts it’s on both side of the streets wrapping around to the Alamo movie theater one way and all the way out Campbell almost to Republic Road on the other,” she said. “There’s a center lane between those two lanes but if you go through there a police woman told me she’d give you a ticket.”
That’s why she’s upset with no action taken against those who block traffic while waiting to get into a drive-thru lane.
“According to the law impeding traffic is also a ticketable offence but watch anybody do anything about it,” she said. “Planning and Zoning, if they don’t consider that if you’re building a drive-thru and you can’t contain it without interrupting a major thoroughfare, there’s something wrong there.”
“We take a very close look at what the traffic circulation is going to look like on the site whenever they’re developing the site,” Estell responded. “There are minimum requirements like they are required to provide a minimum number of queuing spaces for drive-thru. In the instance of Chick-fil-A you’ve seen some of the double drive-thru lanes and some of the double-order windows but as we know Chick-fil-A is probably gonna have more vehicles coming through its drive-thru than what we typically see and so some of that can’t necessarily be captured within our codes because we have to be consistent with everyone across the city as they come in to develop.”
Estell was asked what his advice to drivers would be if they want to go to a drive-thru and the line is out to the roadway.
“As frustrating as it might sound the safest thing for you to do is just to continue driving,” he said. “Because the last thing you want to do is stop in the middle of the road. At that point you’re a sitting duck out there. Probably the best thing would be if the parking lot is open, pull into the parking lot and wait for the queuing (drive-thru) to clear out or just circle the parking lot a couple of times. It’s not the most convenient but we’re trying to work through that and hopefully with the help of these businesses come up with a solution that’s helpful.”
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