A much-awaited sidewalk project appears as if it is ready to begin.
The project has been submitted to the State of South Dakota Department of Transportation, and they will soon send it out to bid, said Brett McMacken, city administrator for Hill City.
“One of the major concerns of this project is why is it taking so long to get it fixed?” McMacken said. “And the short answer is we are dealing with the state of South Dakota with the Department of Transportation because they own the street. The city does not own Main Street. That’s one big thing I think people need to understand. Secondly, we apply for grant money, so what we did was, and there was actually a grant application before I got here, and we were denied as a city to do a similar project. We were denied, and then we resubmitted, and we said we will partner with the state and chip in $75,000 to help get this fixed and resolved.”
While the city is on the hook for $75,000, the whole project is expected to cost roughly $300,000.
What the project will do, McMacken explained, is get rid of the step that can be found running along Main Street beginning at Granite Sports and running to the Ben West Gallery.
Not only will the step be eliminated, McMacken said, they will also widen the sidewalks to make them ADA compliant.
Right now, because of the lights, there is “absolutely no way (the lower sidewalk) is ADA compliant,” McMacken said.
“You can’t get through it with a wheelchair,” he said. “You are stuck, you can’t go down. So, the state did that in 1996, I think, and did that I’m not quite sure why, but we are fixing it. So that’ll go on this. What essentially happens is this upper sidewalk gets made wider, and that accommodates the streetlight, and then, because we can’t just have an upper sidewalk and a lower sidewalk, we obviously need to have a railing so that people aren’t falling off the upper sidewalk.”
The railing will run the length of the raised sidewalk, but it will be designed in such a way that people can still sit along the ledge and watch parades going down Main Street.
By Granite Sports there will also be an ADA compliant ramp to guide people to the top level.
They wanted to install steps along the top level of the sidewalk, however, the city was told first by the Department of Transportation and then by the federal government that the steps would not be ADA compliant unless they had a ramp to put there, which McMacken said they would be unable to do.
The upper sidewalk, which is uneven, has been in place for several decades. The reason why it is uneven, McMacken explained, is because there is a hump in Main Street, which creates an unlevel process. People in their trucks used to back up to supply stores, which would be level due to the raised sidewalk.
Now, McMacken said, they cannot change the layout without either raising or lowering the buildings or redoing Main Street, which McMacken said would be too expensive to do.
The process with the Department of Transportation was frustrating at times, McMacken said.
“It is frustrating in the sense that the comments that come back, we have to address them,” he said. “Sometimes, there have been 300 comments that come back from the planners, and we have to go through and fix everything.”
They went through six different draft plans, submitting the sixth one to the state.
The current sidewalk plan has taken over three years to do with exchanging comments and ideas with the state Department of Transportation, while the whole process has taken well over a decade, McMacken said, from submitting the first grant to submitting the final plans to go out to bid.
The final plans for bid were submitted on Thursday.
While they plan on getting the project underway as soon as possible, there are some concerns about the project spilling into the busy summer tourist season.
“My gut tells me that this project shouldn’t take more than three months from start to finish and be done,” McMacken said. “Obviously, that is complicated with weather, and so, could this be built this spring? Sure. My concern and my concern all along is I don’t want to disturb downtown, our economic engine with all of our businesses. I don’t want all the sidewalks torn up when the tourists are coming in.”
During the process, though, they are going to completely rip out the old sidewalk and pour new concrete, which would eliminate the cracks found on the sidewalk.