Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

South Dakota transportation officials approve winter operations budget

Snowplow clears South Dakota road (file)
South Dakota Department of Transportation
Snowplow clears South Dakota road (file)

The South Dakota Transportation Commission approved changes to the state’s winter highway plan – Just before the first snow is expected to fall.

After a harsh winter last year, Department of Transportation officials said they have new strategies to tackle winter weather.

Craig Smith is the South Dakota DOT Operation Director. He said this year’s budget reflects a "normal winter."

“What we spent last year, over $40 million dollars, which I think can pretty assuredly say that’s the most we have ever spent on winter operations last year. Obviously winter played into that, inflation played into that, but, based on our typical winter is how we set that annual budget. So this year we’re budgeting a little over that $20 million,” said Smith.

Smith said last year, navigation systems did not appropriately show alternative routes for road closures, which lead to many motorists becoming stranded.

One major improvement offered in this year’s budget is the creation of a system that would allow counties and tribal governments list their road closures on DOT'sstatewide 511 system.

“We’d know what all Jones County roads are that they are responsible for. Our vendor can tie that closure to those routes and then provide it to whatever mechanism that their scraping our 511, they will also get that," said Smith. "So ideally, if it works as we expect, it will no longer re-route traffic if Jones County has their roads on it, its not going to try to send traffic through Jones County.”

Smith encourages all South Dakotans to have access to the state’s 511 system. He said you can download an app or check the web page for information before you make winter travel plans.

Another area of improvement is the creation of snow fences along highways. This is meant to prevent the buildup of snow on the roadway.

Smith said training and preparation for winter is a year-round job and that his department is ready to handle whatever this year’s winter weather has to offer.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.