SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The first major intersection of an existing road with the new South Veterans Parkway has been completed as the four-year project enters its fourth month of work.
Two lanes of northbound and southbound traffic on Cliff Avenue are open between 77th Street and 85th Street where the new six-lane highway is being constructed in southern Sioux Falls. The first section of South Veterans Parkway is between Cliff Avenue and Western Avenue which includes a bridge over 85th Street near Minnesota Avenue.
“All of the piling for the bridge is done,” Pat Dressen with HDR Engineering said in a city of Sioux Falls update. “From Cliff Avenue all the way to 85th Street, the dirt is essentially on grade. We do have (dirt) overfill at the bridge so we can push it in when the bridge is done.”
This past week, crews closed outside northbound and southbound lanes on Minnesota Avenue 1/4th mile south of 85th Street where South Veterans Parkway will intersect with Minnesota Avenue. One lane of traffic is being maintained through the work zone with South Veterans Parkway, but officials remind drivers to use caution when driving through the construction.
Dressen said gravel will be brought in and paving of the six-lane road could possibly start later this fall near the intersection of South Veterans Parkway and Cliff Avenue. A majority of the road paving and road work between Cliff Avenue and Western Avenue was scheduled for many of the 2024 spring, summer and fall months.
Work continues west of Minnesota Avenue towards Western Avenue where a pedestrian box culvert has been installed as a pedestrian underpass below where six lanes of South Veterans Parkway will be built.
The two-mile stretch of South Veterans Parkway between Cliff Avenue and Western Avenue has been the most controversial to some landowners in the area. South Veterans Parkway will remain a six-lane highway in that stretch but will narrow from a 32-foot median along with high-tension cable guardrails and trees and bushes to the landscape.
The concept of Veterans Parkway has been discussed in city planning since the 1990s, according to city officials. Veterans Parkway will serve a different purpose than a street like 41st Street which has an access every 100 feet.
City officials have said by a 2040 projection, Sioux Falls will have grown to the south as far as it is able before bumping up against the municipal boundary of Harrisburg.
The division between the cities will not be a stretch of roadway with scattered farmland, but simply two sides of the same street, indistinguishable to the casual observer. This will likely be the case with Tea, and to a certain degree Brandon and even Crooks eventually.
City councilor raises concerns about future maintenance costs
During this week’s city informational meeting, city councilor Greg Neitzert asked about future city costs for Veterans Parkway. The new 8.7 miles of South Veterans Parkway will eventually add to the existing 8.5 miles of North Veterans Parkway, which stretches from Interstate 90 in northeastern Sioux Falls to 57th Street in southern Sioux Falls.
Construction of South Veterans Parkway is $210 million with state and federal dollars paying roughly $176 million and the city of Sioux Falls covering roughly $33 million.
Once the road is built, however, the city is on the hook for snow removal and maintenance instead of the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
Netizert asked city assistant director of finance Tom Huber what the operational responsibilities of Veterans Parkway cost the city. Huber said he didn’t know the exact number, but added city parks and rec crews also maintain the grass medians on the existing Veterans Parkway.
“We have been adding some budget into the forecast as it continues to get built out,” Huber said. “If we’re responsible for the snow or whatever else, we’re responsible for the maintenance. That’s something that we are factoring into our equation for both summer and winter.”
Huber said major projects like South Veterans Parkway are why long term planning and budgeting are important tasks city officials constantly get updates on. Neitzert said he didn’t want to be negative, but also wanted people to know resurfacing Veterans Parkway would be a liability to the city in future years.
“Sounds like a big financial albatross,” Neitzert said. “I would just point out to people, good with the bad, this a pretty big liability we’re gonna be taking on too.”
Roads and bridges accounted for 25% of the nearly $800 million 2024 city budget, including $145.8 million for highways and streets in 2024.
Where will South Veterans Parkway connect with the existing Veterans Parkway?
The current stretch of Veterans Parkway ends at 57th Street in southeastern Sioux Falls. The road connecting South Veterans Parkway to the existing Veterans Parkway will be the last segment built between Sycamore Avenue to 57th Street.
When will the final stretch of North Veterans Parkway be finished?
North Veterans Parkway is mostly complete from I-90 all the way to 57th Street. The stretch from Arrowhead Parkway north to Madison Street is not the full six-lane width like the rest of Veterans Parkway but that will change in 2025.
Crews finished widening Arrowhead Parkway and reconstructed an intersection with Six Mile Road this past summer to help with detour traffic when Veterans Parkway is widened and a new intersection with Arrowhead Parkway is constructed, currently scheduled for 2025.