New highway program from Congress is mostly status quo for South DakotaSouth Dakota should receive comparable levels of funding each year under the new deal, which will run through Sept. 30, 2014.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — For South Dakota highway officials, Congress couldn’t have timed any better its breakthrough agreement on a new national transportation program late Wednesday.
South Dakota should receive comparable levels of funding each year under the new deal, which will run through Sept. 30, 2014, according to state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist.
The conference committee of 47 members from the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives released the 700-plus pages of legislation to the public at about 6:30 Thursday morning.
The timing proved serendipitous for the state Transportation Commission, which was already scheduled to meet later on Thursday morning and begin consideration of South Dakota’s next five-year highway plan.
“Essentially the same as it has been” was Bergquist’s description of the new version of the federal program.
South Dakota receives about $280 million of federal highway aid annually. That amount is expected to stay about the same.
The commission gave the OK to South Dakota Department of Transportation officials to prepare to release the new fiveyear plan for public review this week. A series of five public meetings are scheduled by SDDOT later this summer to receive comments.
Meeting dates are July 17 Aberdeen (Ramada Convention Center), July 18 Sioux Falls (Ramkota Hotel), July 19 Mitchell (Mitchell Tech Institute), July 24 Pierre (Ramkota Hotel) and July 25 Rapid City (Ramada Hotel). All meetings are at 7 p.m. local time.
Congress has struggled for years to reach a new agreement on transportation programs and has repeatedly relied on shortterm extensions instead.
The latest extension was due to expire June 30. Bergquist told commissioners Thursday that the final votes by Congress on the new package are expected to occur Saturday, which is June 30.
“This is good to have some good news for a change,” said Commissioner Sam Tidball, of Fort Pierre.
South Dakota officials update their five-year plan annually. The new plan will cover the 2013-2017 period and an online version of the massive set of documents should be available at DOT’s website www.sddot.com later this week. The Internet version of the plan will feature an inter-active map and have county by county breakdowns. Last year’s printed version for the 2012-2016 period covered 286 pages. It is currently available on the DOT website.