Heartland expressway closer to a reality

South Dakota State Roundup

Published April 1, 1992  | April 1992 issue

When President Bush signed a $151 billion transportation bill earlier this year, many South Dakotans cheered. Included in the bill is initial funding for the Heartland Expressway that would link Interstate Highways 90 and 80.

The proposed route would run from Rapid City, through Scottsbluff, Neb., and south to I-80 via an existing two-lane road upgraded to a four-lane, limited access highway.

Funding includes $640,000 for a corridor study to determine the best route. Scheduled to get under way this summer, the study will take about a year to complete.

In addition, Congress approved $29.6 million for construction spending over the six-year life of the appropriations bill. While this is just a fraction of the $170 million to $210 million needed to complete construction, Chuck Vanderziel, Black Hills Council of Local Governments economist and coordinator of the expressway task force, says it is a good start. And he adds that South Dakota and Nebraska are cooperating in planning and funding.

"It's going to develop a whole new area of commerce," says Robert DeMersseman, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership. The new expressway will expedite distribution of South Dakota's agricultural products. Vanderziel says it will be a boon for shippers to the cattle feedlots and slaughter facilities in Ft. Morgan, Neb., located on I-76 directly south of Rapid City and I-80.

Black Hills tourism will likely benefit from the new expressway, too. "Right now the AAA in Denver doesn't route travelers directly to Rapid City," Vanderziel says. "They almost have to say, 'you can't get there from here' because there is no easy route."

A new highway is not the only piece of transportation on the drawing board. Actor Kevin Costner and his brother have unveiled plans for a $35 million resort and conference center in Deadwood that includes a 53-mile rail link to the Rapid City airport.

Kathy Cobb