- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Transportation Commission will review a proposal Thursday to reduce the speed on a stretch of highway in Minnehaha County facing new development.

The oversight board will discuss and likely approve a public hearing on the speed change as well as consider grant applications for roads supporting agribusiness in the state.

The speed zone change would affect about a mile on Highway 42 leading up to Ellis Road. The limit would drop to 55 mph then 45 mph before the intersection on Sioux Falls’ western border.

The change reflects growth in the area, including the new Cherry Lake Reserve development. It has the support of the Highway Patrol and the city of Sioux Falls.

Commission Chairman Michael Trucano said he doesn’t expect any dispute over the speed zone change.

“We rarely go against the recommendations of the staff,” he said.

The public hearing will likely be scheduled for July 24 during the commission’s next meeting, said Bill Nevin, legal counsel for the department.

Commissioners also will review four agribusiness grant applications that request funds for road infrastructure to support growth at two dairies and two grain elevators in the state.

Every year the state sets aside $500,000 for the agribusiness grants, said Laurie Schultz a program manager with the Department of Transportation.

The program has been around since the 1990s, Schultz said. Grants cover 60 percent of the construction costs of the project up to $200,000, not including utility work.

“They’re very important, because the expenses for road construction are going up every year,” Schultz said, mentioning increasing demand due to the oil boom in North Dakota and higher costs of petroleum and gravel. “Townships have limited funding resources, and they look to us, to the department, for aid.”

The Transportation Department works with Agriculture Department officials to ensure that the requested funds are supporting legitimate business growth in the state.

In this round of applications, the city of Castlewood and Lincoln Township are seeking funds to support roads around grain elevators. The townships of Delaware and Grange are requesting funds to support roads to growing dairies.

The state accepts these applications on a rolling basis, stopping when the funds run out.

Commissioners also will review the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for public comment, a plan that lays out the state’s transportation priorities for the next four years.

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