It’s the day a lot of people have been waiting for. Highway 81 between Madison and Arlington is back open.
A small section of that road has been closed since last March due to severe flooding, but now that it’s open again; travelers, businesses, and people who live in the area couldn’t be happier.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, I think we’re going to make the neighbors really happy,” Department of Transportation workers said.
Early this morning, the barricades came down and the temporary speed limit signs went up as the South Dakota Department of Transportation reopened Highway 81.
Drivers didn’t waste anytime.
“The roads been closed off and on since March,” project engineer Jordan Nelson said.
Early spring flooding inundated the highway. It sat underwater until crews could raise it by 32 inches. But then in September it flooded again following another heavy rain.
So, they closed it again until they could raise it by another nine inches.
“It’s been a long long time,” Kristi Ludwig manager of the Handi Mart in Arlington said.
Ludwig says now that the road is back open, business should pick up.
“Hopefully this weekend, between this opening and the Super Bowl, we’ll have a nice busy weekend,” Ludwig said.
Miles down the road in Madison, business owners felt the effects of the closure too.
“Obviously it’s been different, but it’s all good now, we’re finally open and I think everyone is happy,” One Stop owner Todd Jorgenson said.
It wasn’t just business owners who were impacted, though.
“We had a lot of ice fishermen call non-stop wanting to get out here and get to their usual ice fishing spots and people who live around here are ready for their commute to work to get shortened up a bit,” Nelson said.
“It’s a very busy highway, it’s traveled a lot, there’s a lot of commuters from Madison who travel back and forth, it’s just going to make so many people’s lives so much easier,” Ludwig said.
Even in today’s thick fog, that was pretty easy to see.
That stretch of Highway 81 is now 41 inches higher than this time last year, so they’re hoping that’ll be enough to keep it open from here on out.