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You'd better grip the steering wheel and buckle your seat belt before hearing the total potential cost of every possible road project that could take place in the Rapid City area over the next 30 years.

It's $874 million, a figure that comes from a report titled "fiscally constrained plan" that is under consideration by a regional planning organization.

But before anyone panics, let's clear up a few things about that figure:

First, that whopping total would include any project in the region overseen by the Rapid City Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which includes Rapid City and Box Elder, much of Pennington County, and a southern section of Meade County.

Furthermore, of that nearly $1 billion price tag, road projects costing only $158 million are referred to by planners as "high priority," meaning there is a great need for them and a decent chance they could get funded over the next 30 years.

Still, a planner can dream, right?

"A lot of this is looking at future possible roadways," said Kip Harrington, a planner with Rapid City who also serves on the MPO. "Sort of like a wish list."

Harrington noted that the review of projects now being done by the MPO is part of a process undertaken every five years in which the regional planning group produces a 30-year Long Range Transportation Plan. The MPO held the second of two public hearings at the City/County Administration Center in downtown Rapid City on Wednesday to get residents' input into the plan and where they would like to see upgrades and widening of existing roads or construction of new roads and bike path.

To see all the maps and cost charts of the draft 30-year plan, visit rapidtrip2040.com.

The MPO has no tax collection or spending authority, but rather serves as a forward-looking group that tries to balance the need for road projects with the potential to obtain federal, state or local money to make them happen. The group then guides local governments that are considering embarking on the projects.

On Thursday, resident John Spangler, president of the Wildwood Homeowners Association, stopped in to see if any new roads were planned for his south side neighborhood. He was happy to learn that nothing major was planned.

"They've got areas that are growing and developing, so they need roads for those," Spangler said. "But I think the city should have small residential areas with their own flavor and look."

Harrington said the public hearings help strengthen the long-range plan. For example, one idea that came up at the hearing five years ago was for expanded public transit service in growing areas. In response, Rapid City extended bus service to the expanding Rushmore Crossing shopping plaza area, he said.

The 30-year plan works in a similar fashion. A good example is a Pennington County project that would extend Cheyenne Boulevard, just a short street east of Elk Vale Road that is home to hotels, the Black Hills State University Center and a small subdivision. It now ends at a cul-de-sac, but under the plan, it could be extended to Radar Hill Road ($12.7 million), then connect to a southern extension of Ellsworth Road south to 151st Avenue ($16.4 million) and then connect all the way to Ellsworth Road ($6.5 million). It is not a high-priority project, and does not even have a scheduled date.

But Harrington said the proposed extension would help connect fast-growing Box Elder to Rapid City and its burgeoning east side. "It would allow people to get in and out of Box Elder without using Interstate 90 all the time," Harrington said. Putting it on the plan, he said, could let future home developers know there is a proposed road there, which promotes smart and efficient growth.

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