US 18 Upgrades Improve Safety Near Sioux Falls
Smoothing Out US 18: South Dakota DOT Creates Safer Driving Experience Near Sioux Falls
In its second year, the $13 million U.S. 18 improvement project south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, aims to create a safer driving experience for local residents, farmers and truckers traveling through the city.
“The existing roadway had 2 feet of shoulder, with fairly steep slopes and ditches,” explains Harvey Odens, an Engineer with the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT). “The primary thing we wanted to do was widen the road and add shoulders to make it safer.”
The department purchased additional right of way, so it would have room to move the ditches out. Additional work included rebuilding two older bridges, replacing 20 to 30 culverts crossing the road, adding and extending some culverts to help with drainage, removing hills and filling in valleys to increase the sight distance.
“It’s a two-lane highway, so if you want to try to pass someone, you will be able to see a longer distance,” Odens says. “That makes it safer to pass.”
Often farmers move equipment on the route, which also is used by local residents and trucks commuting through the stretch. As much as 50 percent of the traffic is truck.
“With the rural economy and across the border in Iowa, there is a hay auction, so there are trucks with hay bales coming through,” Odens says. “There are grain elevators along the way.”
About 1,200 vehicles use the road daily. The department anticipates the average daily traffic to increase to 1,700 in 2036. The road runs from SD 19 to Interstate 29, south of Sioux Falls.
Runge Enterprises, of Sioux Falls, serves as the prime contractor on the 14-mile-long project. The family-owned and -operated company offers excavating, grading and heavy highway construction, primarily in South Dakota. The company has been in business for more than 30 years and has good employee retention, says Bob Roth, Vice President of Runge Enterprises.
“Widening highways and taking out hills for safety is a new priority of the state DOT, Roth explains. “The DOT has been good to work with.”
The department closed U.S. 18 to through traffic and detoured vehicles to the north, using SD 44 through Chancellor. It has left the road open to residents who live along the project and in the town of Davis. Those people must exercise caution as heavy construction equipment and workers are toiling along the highway.
Runge began the project in April 2018. It included rebuilding a 96-foot-long, concrete-slab bridge at the town of Davis, replacing four box culverts, and adding shoulders and smoothing out the topography from Davis to I-29, about 10 miles. About 5,000 feet was regraded, stretching out a no passing zone.
The work entails taking the existing pavement off, cutting down the hills, grading them and then filling in the valleys with the dirt from the hills, Roth explains. The hills are being cut down about 3 feet to 4 feet.
The severe rains throughout the Midwest in spring of 2019 have presented challenges to the project.
“We had water go over the road a couple of times,” Odens recalls. “In one area, we had water over the road for 10 days. It washed the shoulder out and started eroding into the road for a half of a mile.”
Crews waited for the water to recede. That section west of Davis has made the roadway narrower. It will be re-graded and the road rebuilt.
The bridge being rebuilt this year is 119 feet long. It uses the same concrete-slab design, which Roth describes as similar to the concrete deck in vertical structure. Crews worked through the winter on the bridge.
Runge subcontractor Grangaard Construction of Watertown, South Dakota, had installed a cofferdam at Hurley Creek. During the spring flooding, water came over the top of the walls of the cofferdam, again putting an end to activities until the water receded, about two weeks later. The soft soil also created issues. But by May, crews were finishing pile driving for bent #3, placed the concrete for the footing and backfilled around the columns. Work on bent #2 began in June.
The weather improved during the summer, allowing work to progress at a faster clip. Odens and Roth expect the work will be complete in October 2019. “They are making good progress,” Odens reports.
A Look Ahead
The department plans to let a second contract to pave the highway in 2020. That work will include milling an inch off of the existing asphalt and overlaying the entire road, including the shoulders. The department has held off on the repaving to account for any settlement that could occur during the winter.
“If we wait a year, we end up with a better result in the end,” Odens says.
Roth credits the people working in the field with the success of the project to date.
“I am proud of what they do,” Roth says. “They work hard for long hours.”
“When we are done, we will have 8-foot shoulders,” Odens says. “With the size of farm equipment, it will be a huge improvement and so much safer. It will be a better road and people will appreciate it.”