The picture that goes with this story not only shows a road sign on the north side of Highway 32 as motorists leave Flandreau, but it also shows a scene that is becoming more familiar with the roadway - no traffic.
State Highway 32 has had a history of getting a bit bumpy during the winter months and then evening itself out when the frost melts but this winter it has seen a dramatic increase in the severity of the bumps and severe decrease in the amount of people using the roadway to get in and out of town.
“I used to always take Highway 77 until the Flandreau corner and then take Highway 32 into town,” said Bill Clark, the owner of Dakota American Transformers in Flandreau and a citizen of Colman. “I don’t think my vehicle could take it if I continue to do that so now I take Highway 34 through Egan into town,” Clark added.
Clark isn’t alone and some people are avoiding the roadway like the plague, even though other routes may take them completely out of their way.
“I used to take Highway 32 into Flandreau. I now double my mileage by going to Highway 34, at least for the winter months when Highway 32 is at its worst,” says Pat Hippen, who works at the Avera Medical Group but lives on Highway 32 close to the Interstate. “I care about my vehicle and cannot afford the extra repair cost from using that road,” she added.
After another winter of what seemed like un-drivable conditions on the roadway, the South Dakota Department of Transportation is going to take action.
“A lot of people are concerned, as are we, about the condition of the road,” Travis Dressen of the Department of Transportation out of Sioux Falls said.
The roadway was supposed to be worked on within the next five years but with the extreme driving conditions, the DOT was forced to move the project up to late this spring or early summer.
The DOT says the problem with the road stems from the roadway holding water in the lower level and the joints are heaving so they have formulated their plan to solve the problem.
“We will mill up the asphalt surfacing that is there now as well as the gravel under the asphalt. We will then rework the underlying dirt and re-compact it back to what it should be and reshape the roadway to its original shape,” Dressen said.
“In our mind, that will solve the issue.”
The roadway was last asphalted in 1997, meaning the asphalt only lasted 16 years, a short amount of time compared to some roadways in the state.
“This section of roadway hasn’t held up as well as other places. There are some places in the state that they are getting 30 years out of their asphalt. Those are outliers, but we still wished this would have lasted longer.”
Dressen says construction will take until the fall. There will be access to houses and business during construction but there will be times of prolonged delays and finding an alternative route would be best.