- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Public safety and tourism officials across South Dakota are hustling behind the scenes to prepare for what could be a record-setting 75th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August.

Officials at the Governor’s Tourism Advisory Board Meeting on Tuesday said estimates for the rally’s draw range from 750,000 to 1 million people. That’s a dramatic jump from an estimated 442,000 attendees for the 2014 event, and it means officials have to work harder to make sure the gathering runs smoothly.

“Planning is never sexy,” Department of Public Safety Secretary Trevor Jones said. “But it’s very important. … We try to be as best prepared as possible.”

Jones said planning started early, in September, and his agency is working with local public safety officials to coordinate resources effectively in case of serious emergencies. For example, Jones said if there’s a motorcycle ride planned between Belle Fourche and Custer, he wants to ensure authorities from both areas are aware so officials at the end of the ride don’t get blindsided.

He also called on local planners to ask for resources early rather than waiting until shortly before the rally begins.

“If you need four Blackhawk helicopters, you can’t ask me in July,” Jones said. “You have to ask me today.”

Rapid City-area Department of Transportation engineer Todd Seaman said the agency is expanding road sweeping to county roads, working to alleviate traffic delays and attempting to reduce potential accidents during the August rally. He said portable trailers that show travel speeds have already reduced crashes at dangerous curves.

The agency is also mulling whether it should add real-time delay displays on the roads toward Sturgis.

Department of Tourism Secretary Jim Hagen says the rally is South Dakota’s “one true global event.”

“It could be a barn burner, but we’ll be prepared,” he said.

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