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Safety assessment

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Unique federal safety assessment takes place in Hot Springs

HOT SPRINGS – A commitment by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to reduce fatalities and injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists began to take form last Thursday in Hot Springs, when federal, state and local authorities conducted South Dakota’s first Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Assessment (PBSA).

“We are very excited to have all of you here and to be a part of this assessment,” said Hot Springs Mayor Cindy Donnell in welcoming the transportation department representatives to Hot Springs. Donnell and City Administrator Nolan Schroeder participated in the pedestrian assessment of the city.

“Hot Springs was the spot chosen to do the assessment by the South Dakota Department of Transportation based on several factors,” said Mark Hoines, the South Dakota Division planner for the Federal Highway Administration.

“(U.S.) Secretary (of Transportation Anthony) Foxx launched the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative,” Hoines said, “and has required that each state conduct this type of safety assessment by June. The State DOT thought Hot Springs fit because there was a plan on the books to do extensive work on the highway through town and the community was interested in making the safety of non-motorized transportation a priority.”

While most federal studies involve hours poring over maps and reports, the PBSA is much more hands on. Hoines and several other transportation experts were on bikes at 7:30 Thursday morning, seeing the city from a two-wheeled perspective.

After a short briefing that included an update on the plan to rebuild Highways 385 and 18 through the center of the City, the group of nearly two dozen interested individuals walked the route of the coming construction, from Taco Johns on the south end of town, to Evans Plunge on the north.

“Just as being on bikes this morning gave us a good overview, walking the route gave us a really great perspective on how pedestrian traffic is affected through town,” Hoines added. “You get an idea of how things fit together and where changes are needed.”

Separate assessment questionnaires for cyclists and pedestrians were filled out by the participants and Hoines will create a couple of reports from that information. One of the reports will be a detailed analysis that the State DOT will use in its plan for the highway reconstruction, which is on the state construction schedule for 2019 and 2020.

“This is really a unique situation here today,” Hoines said, “to have state and federal transportation individuals, as well as local folks, in one room to talk about a project. From planning and design to the guys that will actually do the construction – everyone was here. It is something that I have not seen in my 25 years of working in this field.”

Nancy Suprenant, the State DOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Coordinator agreed. “It’s a unique situation, where all of the interested parties are in one place at the same time to brainstorm ideas. It doesn’t always happen like this.”

The proposed reconstruction of the main artery through Hot Springs was first presented in 2013, with work set to begin in 2017. Other projects that came in over projected costs and an overabundance of pressing issues has pushed the Hot Springs project back further, but when the PBSA is completed and implemented into a new preferred alternative, State DOT project coordinator Mark Malone said he expects to have a public meeting yet this fall.

At that point, public input on the proposed project will be taken.

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