State officials, hoping to avoid more flooding closures, are analyzing South Dakota interstates

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Stretches of South Dakota’s interstates are being re-designed so they are less likely to be closed by flooding, according to the head of the state Department of Transportation.

Secretary Darin Bergquist said his engineers and other staff have identified 15 segments as priorities.

It a response to Governor Kristi Noem, who told the department to find ways to keep open the interstates, even during high water.

The governor delivered a special address on flooding in September. The department meanwhile has spent more time and effort reacting to flooded roads in recent years.

Farmers and ranchers struggled to plant crops and run livestock in a very wet 2019. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this winter has released more water than normal from the Missouri River dams, in preparation for another wet spring.

The anti-flood projects being developed for I-90, I-29 and I-229 will be added later this year to the department’s construction plan. Work likely won’t start on most of them until 2021 at the earliest, according to Bergquist.

On Thursday, he briefed state Transportation Commission members about the department’s progress on the project he’s calling ‘interstate resiliency.’

“We thought they were high enough the way they were,” Bergquist told commissioners. “We’re going to have to set a new target.”

The governor appoints the commissioners. They have final say on South Dakota’s annual highway and bridge plan, and they decide every two weeks on private contractors for projects.

Bergquist said DOT employees are looking at flooding potential on all state highways.

As to the anti-flood work coming on the interstates, a commissioner asked about the cost. “A lot — they could be $10 million apiece,” Bergquist replied.

The department suffered $23 million of flood damage to interstates and highways last year, he said. Federal aid will cover 80 percent, but it has meant reshuffling other projects that were already scheduled, pushing some back two or three years.

The department provided KELOLAND News the latest list of locations Friday. Department spokeswoman Kristi Sandal emphasized the plans aren’t final.

On I-90:

Near exit 46 in the Piedmont area, west of Rapid City.

West of Mount Vernon near exit 319, in Hanson County.

2 miles east of Mount Vernon (two locations).

5 miles east of Mount Vernon,

Near the SD 25 interchange at exit 319, in Hanson County.

Near the Bridgewater interchange at exit 357, in McCook County.

4 miles west of the US 81 interchange at exit 364, in McCook County.

1 mile east of the US 81 interchange.

On I-29:

South of the US 18 West interchange (three locations), exit 59, in Lincoln County.

South of the US 18 East interchange, exit 62, in Lincoln County.

North of the SD 46 interchange, exit 47.

On I-229:

Near Cliff Avenue interchange, exit 4, south part of Sioux Falls.

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