You will soon see orange construction cones on Rapid City's Mount Rushmore Road.
After more than a decade of delays, Thursday the Transportation Commission of the South Dakota Department of Transportation finally accepted the low bid on the rebuild of the state highway through Rapid City.
Mayor Sam Kooiker was thankful for the unanimous vote. "We're very excited," said Kooiker. "We share the DOT's concern about increasing costs of the project. but this is an important project for our community and it 's time to get it done. It will never get less expensive."
The lobbying started bright and early, to leave no doubt that Rapid City wants the construction to begin. Along with several Mount Rushmore Road business owners, Kooiker, Councilman Ritchie Nordstrom and other city leaders made the pre–dawn three-hour trip to make sure the Department of Transportation knows the city's position.
Debra Jensen, president of the Mount Rushmore Road group, is pleased that the bid has finally been approved. "My goodness, it took 10 long years and finally we're going to have construction on Mount Rushmore Road," said Jensen. "It's so needed. It has literally been falling apart for years."
The stretch of U.S. Highway 16 that runs through Rapid City was renamed Mount Rushmore Road. It was built in 1959. It's 40-year life was over in 1989. It's had two overlays since. Thursday, the board agreed it's not going to get any cheaper. It is time to fix it.
Upper Plains of Abderdeen was awarded the first phase of the project with a combined low bid of totaling about $11,800,000. This will be about six blocks of Mount Rushmore Road from Flormann Street to Tower Road, including the bridge, new utilities and power lines buried underground.
Rapid City Public Works Director Terry Wolterstorff has been working on the project for a decade. "Before we're done, over the next several years, we're going to spend over $9 million of city money on this road: beautification, parking mitigation, water, sewer, storm water upgrades," said Wolterstorff. "We're going in there and do a project that's good for the next generation."
The Mount Rushmore Road group is the driving force behind this project. The have developed a survival guide to help businesses that line the busy road.
Lisa Modrick is the treasurer and in charge of membership for Mount Rushmore Road. "You can expect 30 to 60 percent in revenue to be down when (construction) is in front of your business," explains Modrick. "They are aware. We're doing an education campaign on that so they're preparing. We need to make sure the community supports these businesses under construction and not fear the cone, but go visit and keep them alive."
From today, the contractor has 30 days to start construction. Phase one should be finished by next fall. There will be two more phases to finish the entire project.