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Two Projects in South Dakota Win Regional America’s Transportation Awards

by: Jessica Hoover
U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
South Dakota Environmental Sensor and Camera Stations
South Dakota Environmental Sensor and Camera Stations
Image from the Environmental Sensor and Camera Stations
Image from the Environmental Sensor and Camera Stations
Two South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) projects won regional awards in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards competition, created by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The competition recognizes state departments of transportation (DOTs) for making a difference in their community, with each project falling into one of three categories: Quality of Life/Community Development, Operations Excellence, and Best Use of Technology & Innovation.

“In addressing the transportation challenges of today and tomorrow, state DOTs demonstrate a strong determination to bring innovative solutions to their communities,” said Jim Tymon, Executive Director of AASHTO. “The America’s Transportation Awards program serves as a testament to their endeavors, and I am excited to kick off the regional awards with WASHTO’s pioneering projects. These projects play a vital role in improving safety, enhancing mobility, and revitalizing transportation resources for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit customers alike.”

Twenty projects in the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO) region were nominated by state departments of transportation for this year’s competition. The following two projects in the Western Builder area were winners of regional America’s Transportation Awards.

U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction (Quality of Life/Community Development, Medium Category)
U.S. Highway 83, a crucial north/south link connecting Brownsville, Texas, to Westhope, North Dakota, serves as a vital transportation route between Mexico and Canada. This 68-mile stretch, which passes through a predominantly rural area in South Dakota, also plays a significant role as a freight corridor, carrying 1,500 to 2,800 vehicles per day. In November 2022, SDDOT completed the multi-phase, $112 million project to improve the corridor and enhance safety for travelers and pedestrians.

“With the average daily traffic expected to increase by over 30% by 2033, these corridor improvement projects are anticipated to have lasting benefits to both the local communities and the regional economy,” said Doug Sherman, Winner Area Engineer at SDDOT. “Commercial carriers will have a safer and more viable route to transport goods to and from neighboring Nebraska and better access to Interstate 90. Ranchers in south-central South Dakota will be able to transport their cattle more efficiently.”

The project primarily involved the reconstruction of the northern 23 miles of U.S. Highway 83, including the creation of three new bridges and three reinforced-concrete box culverts. These enhancements increased the capacity of the highway and improved safety for vehicular traffic by smoothing out several vertical curves along the roadway.

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Two new shared-use paths were also constructed between the City of White River and the Horse Creek Community on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. The shared-use paths, which are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), were designed to address the lack of safe places for pedestrians and cyclists in areas with high poverty rates and where walking or biking is the primary mode of transportation.

Since a portion of the U.S. Highway 83 reconstruction project passed through the Rosebud Indian Reservation, SDDOT collaborated closely with tribal partners to ensure the project aligned with the needs of the communities on the reservation. This collaboration included utilities for the shared-use paths and the hiring of local workers through the Tribal Employment and Civil Rights Office.

“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe was great to work with through this long journey, from utilities help to supplying local workers through [the] Tribal Employment and Civil Rights Office,” said Brad Norrid, Engineering Manager at SDDOT. “Everyone played a role in making U.S. Highway 83 a safer and more enjoyable highway for the traveling public. We can all be proud of this reconstruction project.”

South Dakota Environmental Sensor and Camera Stations (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Small Category)
With severe winter weather often wreaking havoc on road conditions across South Dakota, SDDOT recognized the need for up-to-date weather data and camera images of real-time road conditions. In response to this, the department undertook a $3 million project to install 120 environmental sensor and camera stations along the state's highways to create a Road Weather Information System (RWIS) that gives motorists and commercial vehicles safer travel options, allowing them to avoid hazardous weather conditions and reroute when necessary.

The stations deliver real-time weather data and camera images to maintenance staff and travelers through SDDOT's 511 website, mobile applications, and rest area kiosks. The collected data is integrated into SDDOT's Winter Maintenance Decision Support System, which recommends maintenance strategies based on current and forecasted weather and road conditions. By contributing to a more comprehensive and accurate weather monitoring system, the stations have helped to address the lack of weather observations in rural areas.

“The primary benefit is traveler safety for both personal and commercial travelers. Personal travelers can make trips to work, school, medical care, shopping, and all other essential services more safely. Commercial carriers can avoid hazardous travel and reroute to another roadway as needed for successful delivery,” said Dave Huft, Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Manager at SDDOT. “The secondary benefit is providing weather observations to the National Weather Service for their use in forecasting and issuance of advisories. Due to the rural nature of our state, weather observations have not always been available to the National Weather service, and these installations have helped fill in a sparse network of observations.”

The environmental sensor stations are equipped with state-of-the-art technology, combining high-resolution video cameras with self-contained infrared illumination, meteorological sensors, an NTCIP-compliant controller, and cellular communications. Due to the installation of the environmental sensor and camera stations, SDDOT has gained broad surveillance of its statewide highway network, saving hundreds of hours of time and thousands of miles of travel that would have otherwise been required to manually observe winter road conditions.

Next Phase of the Competition
The three highest-scoring projects from each regional America’s Transportation Awards competition (a total of 12 projects) will continue on to compete for two national awards, the Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. In November, AASHTO will reveal the winners at its annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Top 12 projects in alphabetical order by state are:

  • Florida Department of Transportation’s Hurricane Ian Sanibel Island Emergency Access
  • Georgia Department of Transportation’s Historic 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge Rehabilitation Project
  • Illinois Department of Transportation’s Jane Byrne Interchange
  • Iowa Department of Transportation’s Adult Changing Facilities in Iowa Rest Areas
  • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Mayfield Tornado Response
  • Maine Department of Transportation’s The Veranda Plan
  • North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Flood Warning System
  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Emergency Fern Hollow Bridge Replacement Project
  • South Dakota Department of Transportation’s U.S. Highway 83 Corridor Improvements and Reconstruction
  • Texas Department of Transportation’s Mobility35 Initiative to Address Homelessness Program
  • Utah Department of Transportation’s Teamed-Up for Transit: UDOT and UTA Partner to Improve Mobility for Local Community
  • Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
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