SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Whether driving a Lincoln or a Chevy Impala, you still need to navigate the traffic cones during construction season.

It takes thousands of cones to direct traffic through construction zones. In Sioux Falls and eastern South Dakota, it’s likely those cones and barrels seen on the streets come from three suppliers in the city: Dakota Traffic Services, Construction Signing Corporation and Traffic Solutions.

Traffic in between the traffic cones on Cliff Avenue near the intersection with 33rd Street, KELOLAND News photo

Darrick Bren of Traffic Services estimated the business had 4,000 cones out in eastern South Dakota this week. About 2,000 are in Sioux Falls.

In just Sioux Falls, Kyle Schievelbein of Constructing Signing Corporation said the business had 1,200 cones in construction zones in Sioux Falls. Plus another couple hundred barrels, he said.

Drive on East 41st Street near the intersection with Sycamore Avenue and 42-inch traffic cones mark the space where two lanes are under construction and where two lanes have been converted to two-way traffic.

It’s similar on Cliff Avenue at the 26th Street intersection until near Lincoln High School. Two lanes are under construction and two lanes have been converted to two-way traffic.

The 42-inch orange and white cones separate the traffic.

The businesses review the construction engineering plans for street projects to determine how many cones will be needed and how those cones must be placed.

“It all depends on the speed limit as to how far apart they are,” Schievelbein said.

Cones for interstate traffic are usually farther apart then cones for construction traffic in a city.

At slower speed limits, the 42-inch cones may be 25 to 40 feet apart, he said.

“Sometimes they are closer,” he said. “If you have a drop off you want them 10 feet apart. It depends on what you are doing and how close you are (to drop off or construction, traffic).”

Bren said barrels and tapers are usually placed every 25 feet.

“At the intersection, it’s closer to a few feet apart, where people are turning,” Bren said.

During a recent morning on Cliff Avenue between 26th Street and 33rd, the traffic cones were in good shape.


A damaged traffic cone on 41st Street near the intersection with Sycamore Avenue. KELOLAND News photo

Across town on 41st Street at Sycamore Avenue, there were several crushed and bent traffic cones. Cones on the northern edge of 41st Street were the most vulnerable as heavy equipment worked on two closed lanes of the street.

“Usually intersections (have the most damage),” Bren said. “People tend to run them over there. On the straightaways, they stay pretty good.”

Contractors and city staff monitor the traffic cones while representatives of the business will do the same. Contractors may be responsible for replacing damaged cones but the businesses will also go to the site and replace them.

“Most of the monitoring is done by the contractor on the project,” Schievelbein said. “During the day, if they see some out of place, they need to let us know to fix it.”

The 42-inch traffic cones have a 30-pound base that helps keep them in place. Bren estimated the cost at about $60 per cone and at about $100 per barrel.

Schievelbein said the cost of the cones is changing because of supply issues and inflation. He estimated the business replaces several hundred cones each year.

The lifespan of a traffic cone is about three to seven years.

Contractors will bid on state, city or county road construction projects. Subcontractors such as the traffic cone providers will submit a quote or bid to the contractor.

The contractor will select a low quote and include that cost into the budget before bidding on a city, county or state road construction project.

The cones are part of the construction season but Bren had some advice.

“Avoid construction areas and don’t drive over the cones,” Bren said.

And if you do drive in construction zones, remember that “The cones are there. They’re there to keep you save,” Schievelbein said.