Traffic spike brings transfer request for road between Brookings and Aurora

Brookings County commissioners discuss 214th Street's future

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BROOKINGS — Interstate 29 now has three exits leading into Brookings, but the newest one — Exit 130 that connects to 20th Street South — is causing such a big increase in traffic on 214th Street between Brookings and Aurora that two townships want the county to take it over.

How that process would work — including potential maintenance/upgrade costs, grant opportunities, study findings and a possible timeline — was at the heart of a discussion during a meeting of the Brookings County Commission on Tuesday morning. A formal request by Trenton Township to transfer jurisdiction of 214th Street from 34th Avenue east to 474th Avenue brought about the debate, one that’s expected to continue in the weeks ahead, as Aurora Township is also interested in doing the same thing for its stretch of 214th Street.

“I know Trenton and Aurora (townships) have both been inundated with complaints and requests,” Commissioner Larry Jensen noted. “They just, with their normal maintenance schedule, can’t keep up with the maintenance on this stretch of road.”

Trenton Township’s resolution indicated that complainants’ concerns are focused on excessive washboarding, lack of timely snow removal and narrow road width. 

Commissioner Mike Bartley asked Highway Superintendent Brian Gustad about what potential costs the county could face if it took over maintenance of that portion of 214th Street, along with any improvements would have to be made.

“I’ll have to look at it … give it a real close look,” Gustad said. “Knowing that the situation out there and the impacts from traffic — it’s probably going to need gravel and quite a bit of maintenance.”

Looking beyond gravel to a possible paved future, Banner Associates in Brookings is working on a report regarding what it might cost to put that asphalt on the gravel portion of 214th Street between I-29 Exit 130 and Aurora, Bartley noted. Jensen added that information from the report, which is still being worked on, might be available in the early part of March.

Once the report arrives, the county will have a better idea of what kind of grant money is available — and that’s important, because it’s expected to cost millions of dollars to upgrade the roadway. 

“As I’ve followed this over the months and years since we started the project with the interchange, there was always a thought that we were going to end up having to take over these township roads to improve them to get to Aurora either with a gravel upgrade to the standards that we can maintain or to an asphalt overlay, which is obviously much more expensive,” Bartley said. 

He added that he hopes Gustad can bring an estimate of what it will cost the county to maintain this stretch of 214th Street on a yearly basis, both in its current gravel condition and in the future if it becomes asphalt. For his part, Gustad said he was already penciling in some numbers, but would bring more accurate figures to a future commission meeting.

The jurisdiction transfer is only in its initial steps, though. Commission Department Director Stacy Steffensen said the process of taking over roads from townships involves multiple steps, starting when a township sends its resolution to the county. The county then creates its resolution. After that, approval is needed from the South Dakota Department of Transportation regarding the township/county resolutions on the jurisdictional transfer.

Speaking of the state DOT, Commissioner Ryan Krogman thinks the county is going to need some help from the agency in regard to improving 214th Street in the months and years to come. As such, he suggested providing a presentation to the DOT. 

“I hope they’re open to helping us work toward securing grants … because they’re going to have to be involved with it either way,” he said. 

That, of course, is looking ahead. Right now, progress in the form of the new Exit 130 on I-29 — and the new economic boom it’s expected to bring to southern Brookings and the surrounding area — has led to some headaches. 

“The fact is, Aurora and Trenton (townships) didn’t ask for this overpass to be built,” Jensen noted. “It’s unfortunate the amount of traffic that’s on there — at times, it’s not safe. Right now, it’s in pretty good shape because of the moisture and they’re able to maintain it a little bit better.”

“(When it) gets soft here in the spring thaw, it’ll be challenging for the townships to maintain it,” Jensen continued. “I hope people in Aurora would understand the townships have limited funding, and their contractors have a schedule that they follow and they try to do the best they can to maintain that stretch.” 

— Contact Mondell Keck at mkeck@brookingsregister.com.