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Like many of her neighbors on East Saint Francis Street, Amy Taormina is fed up with dust.

Drive too quickly down the gravel road and, she said, dust will fly everywhere. And when the wind blows too sharply, it kicks dust into the air, covering cars and windows and the outsides of houses.

"The dust is thick, and it permeates everything, specifically when it's dry," Taormina told the Rapid City Council at a meeting last month.

"It's a nightmare," she continued.

Taormina, who said she has lived on East Saint Francis Street since 2011, is among those residents for whom dust is an unpleasant side effect of living on an unpaved road. It is estimated there are still 13 miles of dirt or gravel roads within city limits.

Fortunately for the residents of East Saint Francis, relief may be imminent: The city last month approved an $80,000 project to pave the street, and officials believe that will tamp down the dust.

Dust sufferers in other parts of town will have to wait and see if their streets will be approved for paving through a city program with a modest annual budget of $60,000.

That program, called "Out of the Dust," provides funding for the paving of dirt and gravel streets. Public Works Director Dale Tech said the potential projects that the program identifies are "prioritized based on maintenance needs" and has in the past addressed alleyways and not roads.

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"We have some steep alleys that, every time it rains hard, the gravel in the alley washes out onto a street and causes problems," he said.

During the same meeting at which Taormina and other residents of East Saint Francis Street spoke, Tech said the program ought to begin focusing on paving streets instead of alleys.

What makes East Saint Francis Street unique is that it was privately developed as a residential neighborhood and without a paved road prior to its annexation into the city, which occurred more than 10 years ago. Roads developed within and 3 miles outside of the city are required to be paved.

What Tech said makes the street a good candidate for the city dust program is the sound physical condition of its connecting utilities. The same cannot be said of those serving other dirt road neighborhoods, many of which have been a part of the city for decades.

Tech said that simply paving the streets makes less sense than working to repair the whole of their respective infrastructures, which comes at a cost in the seven-figure range. The city's capital improvement fund budgets about $20 million for street projects each year.

Furthermore, Tech said, paving over a dirt road does not guarantee that it will perform similarly to hard-surface streets in urban areas, which feature curbs and gutters that provide drainage. At least on Saint Francis Street, the Public Works Department believes the risk of severe drainage issues is low.

In a recent interview, City Councilwoman Lisa Modrick described the project, whose approval she pushed for, as an accomplishment on the city's part. The street is expected to be paved this summer.

“It’s a project that was needed over a decade ago," she said.

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— Contact Matt Guerry at matthew.guerry@rapidcityjournal.com

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