Raising Highway 81

Local News

It’s one of the busiest highways in South Dakota, but it’s also become a bit of a nightmare for travelers.

After heavy rain this spring and summer, a portion of Highway 81 between Madison and Arlington has been underwater for several weeks.

But now the South Dakota Department of Transportation is in the process of raising the road.

The construction is creating some long detours, but as you’re about to see not everyone is following them.

A semi truck driver got stuck Tuesday after trying to maneuver around the road blocks on Highway 81, where water has been over the road for most of the summer.

“It’s kind of been an issue, we actually had to move our barricades back farther just because we’ve had a lot of traffic down here, a lot of people cutting through, near misses with construction workers out here working, we’re trying to keep everyone safe,” project engineer Jordan Nelson said.

With sloughs on both sides, crews are raising the road by almost three feet in hopes of reducing the chance of it flooding ever again, but on days like today, work can get complicated.

“It’s a pretty substantial raise, but when you got a windy day like this water can roll in and really affect it,” Nelson said.

Closing the highway has also affected businesses in both Madison and Arlington.

“Obviously it’s been a little tough, we’ve had a lot of rain, I think it’s probably affected everyone,” convenience store owner Todd Jorgenson said.

This portion of the highway has flooded before, but never for this long.

“With 81 being closed, the most we’ve had, a lot of frustrated customers asking how they can get to Madison and what alternative routes they can take,” convenience store manager Kristi Ludwig said.

“It’s an inconvenience to send people around the detour, it’s a petty important highway through here; a lot of traffic, we need to get it back opened up,” Nelson said.

Even though summer is winding down, hunting season is just around the corner, so getting it back open, can’t happen soon enough.

“Yes, yes, we are very hopeful and anxious to get it done,” Ludwig said.

The project engineer says they hope to have the highway back open by mid-October.

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