City of Springfield putting up signs to try to detour Chick-fil-A, Starbucks overflow at Sunshine

Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 6:15 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 30, 2021 at 9:00 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - For years now, traffic back-ups have been a problem at one of Springfield’s busiest intersections because of drivers turning into popular drive-thru businesses in that area.

Now the city is trying a new approach to try and fix it.

So far it’s slow to catch on.

It was six years ago when KY3 first told you about the traffic jams caused by the opening of the Chick-fil-A at Sunshine and Campbell. It’s not a situation unique to the Ozarks as the national chain has brought traffic tie-ups, business complaints and police intervention in over 20 states because of its great popularity.

The Chick-fil-A at Sunshine is one-of-four in Springfield with another at the mall, one on the Missouri State campus and a fourth on Glenstone temporarily closed for remodeling. The closure of that store though has brought even more business to the one at Sunshine. That plus the presence of another popular brand, Starbucks, next door on Sunshine means that at certain times of the day (morning, noon and early evening) cars are spilling out into Sunshine street from the parking lots and clogging up traffic.

Add in traffic from Bass Pro and Wonders of Wildlife, located across the street, and Sunshine and Campbell becomes one of the three busiest intersections in town.

“The Campbell and Sunshine intersection sees 60,000 cars a day and 5,000 cars an hour during the peak periods like during lunch,” pointed out Brett Foster, a Traffic Engineer with the City of Springfield.

Last week the city began a short-term attempt to abate the traffic snarls by putting up a message board telling drivers not to stop on Sunshine street and instead use an alternative turn just a block away.

That alternative route takes the driver north one block to a side-street, University Street, which runs behind the Chick-fil-A and Starbucks.

On this particular day we visited at lunchtime there was virtually no traffic on the alternate route mainly because so far, not many drivers are paying attention to the signs on Sunshine. The lines extending out onto Sunshine holding up traffic were as long as usual with other drivers honking their horns in frustration as many of the obstructionists seemed oblivious to the signs that were right beside their stopped cars. Meanwhile a Chick-fil-A employee was directing traffic inside the parking lot where exiting cars from the drive-thru met cars coming into the lot but no one was directing traffic at the entrance where cars were blocking the road.

“The city wants to educate drivers that it’s extremely unsafe to stop on Sunshine to wait to come into a parking lot,” Foster said. “You’re impeding the flow of traffic and it’s actually illegal. We’re not going to start ticketing that but the goal is to be cooperative with the businesses and try to alleviate as much of the congestion as we can in the short term. If you stop on Sunshine not only are you greatly affecting your own personal safety you’re affecting the safety of others. And if the traffic would back into the light at Sunshine and Campbell it could take up to 15 minutes for the normal traffic flow to resume because the signals are trying to move people through Springfield as efficiently as possible. So try to think of others. Try to think that chicken sandwich or coffee isn’t worth your life.”

Some wonder why the city’s Planning and Zoning didn’t try to prevent the problem when the businesses were being built.

“According to the law impeding traffic is a ticketable offense but watch anybody do anything about it,” said driver Jackie Mayo. “If they don’t consider, if you’re building a drive-thru, that you can’t contain it without interrupting a major thoroughfare, there’s something wrong there.”

But the city explains it has to be consistent in how it treats incoming businesses and has to apply the same zoning rules to all those who fit in the same category, regardless of whether they’re high-profile or not.

“We look at those businesses based on the business type,” Foster explained. “Whether it’s a Chick-fil-A or your family chicken restaurant. They’re really perceived the same. I know in discussing with the Chick-fil-A owners they’re very aware of this as well as Starbucks, and they’re going to work together with their own site plans and other things on their lots to try to accommodate access better. There’s no perfect solution. There’s no cheap solution for a permanent fix.”

We reached out to the national offices of both Starbucks and Chick-fil-A for interviews for this story.

A Starbucks spokesperson e-mailed us with this response:

“We value being a good neighbor and member of the Springfield community. We are committed to working with the city and community members on long-term solutions for the store.”

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