PIERRE | South Dakota’s two interstate highways have fewer rest stops open to travelers this summer.
State government’s Department of Transportation locked up the sites after the maintenance contracts ended Oct. 31 last year. Department officials closed the Hidewood northbound and southbound rest stops on Interstate 29 at mile marker 160 between Brookings and Watertown.
They also shut down the Tilford westbound and eastbound rest stops on Interstate 90 at mile marker 41, between Sturgis and Piedmont.
A contractor demolished the Tilford building in April and restored the ground to natural grass, according to Darin Bergquist, state government’s secretary of transportation. He said demolition of the Hidewood buildings was let June 28 with a completion date of Sept. 29.
Both parking lots remain open to truckers and other vehicles whose drivers want to rest.
The closures produced a savings of $210,000. The department is spending the money for improvements at other rest stops on the two interstates.
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State government’s Transportation Commission didn’t vote on the plan. The commission members received a briefing July 28, 2016, from Jason Humphrey, a DOT official. The meeting was open to the public, but no news reporters attended.
The commission subsequently approved improvement projects for the Wilmot, Valley Springs and Homestead rest areas, according to Bergquist. He said construction would start at all three in 2018.
The changes are parts of a major upgrade that Gov. Dennis Daugaard wanted in place before information centers opened this summer at some of the rest areas. The Tilford information centers were shut down when the maintenance contract ended last October. So were information centers at the Wasta westbound and eastbound rest areas on I-90 in eastern Pennington County.
Seasonal employees are working instead this summer at the Minuteman Missile Site Visitor Center at exit 131 on I-90.
Further closures of information centers are planned for fall 2019. They include:
• The westbound rest area outside Presho on I-90.
• The westbound and eastbound rest areas outside Salem on I-90.
• The southbound rest area at Glacial Lakes on I-29.
The department expects savings of $235,000 annually in traveler-counselor wages that can be used for other purposes, according to Bergquist. He said there are other projects underway and that three are for Americans with Disabilities Act-access improvements.
Work finished at the westbound and eastbound rest areas on I-90 at White Lake, while construction is wrapping up at the northbound and southbound rest areas at Ward Road on Interstate 29. The department recently hired an architect to redesign the Wasta rest areas for ADA compliance.
Work won’t start at the Belvidere, Presho, Salem and Glacial Lakes rest areas until after the welcome centers are completed at Homestead, Valley Springs and Wilmot, according to Bergquist.
He said much of the work is being funded through capital and maintenance accounts in the department’s budget that the Legislature approves annually.