STURGIS – Meade County is in the process of updating its transportation master plan as the county continues to experience substantial population growth.
Steve Grabill, of KLJ Engineering in Rapid City, said KLJ has been selected by Meade County and the South Dakota Department of Transportation to update the county’s plan. Grabill said at the Meade County commission meeting on Tuesday that the engineering company and the county are in the early stages of the study, mainly collecting data, analysis and identifying problems.
The plan will provide a 20-year long-term transportation plan for the county and is being updated due to the significant growth occurring in Meade County, Grabill said. The county experienced the second fastest growing population among South Dakota counties between 2010 and 2020. According to the 2020 census, the population grew by 4,418 – or 17.4 percent – over the past decade.
As part of the study, KLJ looked at some of the largest subdivisions starting to appear in the county and their impact on transportation, particularly along the I-90 corridor south of Sturgis, Grabill said.
KLJ held two public meetings in September, one in Piedmont and another in Sturgis, to gather public comments on the plan.
The Piedmont meeting brought together a large group of concerned citizens who wanted to address a large planned development in the Summerset area.
âTheir concern was that they have a road district for Quall Road that is really meant to handle the traffic that exists today. They’re very concerned that this (the new subdivision) will overwhelm this road, âGrabill said.
He told the board that Quall Road is a very narrow high access corridor that was never really designed to handle the traffic it will carry. Citizens at the Piedmont meeting told KLJ they wanted the county to take a more proactive approach to planning for increased traffic along the corridor.
At the second meeting held in Sturgis, there were only a handful of attendees and these people wanted to talk about Fort Meade Way.
âI heard numbers that during the rally there were over 70,000 vehicles on that gravel road,â said Grabill.
Grabill said he spoke to county staff about ways to improve the road and possibly see it paved.
âI think that was the desire of the people who came to talk about Fort Meade Way,â he said.
Meade County Commission Chairman Ted Seaman asked Grabill when it is incumbent on the state to undertake projects, such as Fort Meade Way, to modernize them to respond to a traffic crash outside of State.
âThe state collects taxpayer money – sales tax and gasoline tax – for all these vehicles that come in, and we get nothing but court fees and a little bit of revenue from the taxpayers. property taxes, âhe said. âAs a committee, this is the problem we face. We’re just not getting the revenue to upgrade these roads as we would like.
Grabill said some at the meeting questioned whether Fort Meade Way could become a national highway.
âThere has to be some coordination with the state DOT on the future of this route,â Grabill said of Fort Meade Way.
âWe are asking the state to get involved and they are not getting involved,â Seaman said. âThey should have taken the lead in this bypass and unfortunately they didn’t. We’re stuck with the maintenance of Fort Meade Way, and I don’t see where the revenue will come from to build it the way it should have been built.
Grabill suggested starting conversations with the state to see if there is a collaborative way forward on Fort Meade Way.
The mention of working with the state on Fort Mead Way sparked a heated discussion from the commission over the attempt to get the state of South Dakota to take over responsibility and upkeep of New Underwood Road.
âBefore we try to get the state to take control of Fort Meade Way, we need to get it to take control of New Underwood,â Commissioner Doreen Creed said.
Seaman said research shows Meade County has invested more than $ 18 million on New Underwood Road in the past 20 years.
âWe have a lot of public traffic on this road and we haven’t secured public funding for it. We have had very little success in getting the state to act on anything, âSeaman said.
Preliminary information in the study shows that the highest traffic levels are found on county roads surrounding the I-90 corridor in southwest Meade County.
Interestingly, one of the biggest traffics on a gravel road was Avalanche Road, which runs parallel to the Interstate just past the Runnings store. This road leads to the municipal landfill, but new housing estates are planned in the area in the near future.
The highest traffic volumes surround Interstate 90, including Elk Creek Road and Stagestop Road. Some north-south routes have higher volumes, including segments of Erickson Ranch Road and North Haines Avenue.
Grabill said the plan update responds to changing conditions in Meade County that may affect traffic volumes and patterns. These conditions include increasing development, the need for additional regional connectivity, and the desire to better accommodate travel by bicycle and on foot, among others.
The plan will establish a set of project goals and recommendations that meet current and future needs, he said.
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