- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

STURGIS, S.D. (AP) - Meade County commissioners have awarded a $1.3 million contract to a Rapid City company to build a highway bypass at Sturgis.

Tuesday’s vote came a day after a judge removed a roadblock by declining the plea of opponents to mandate a public vote on the project, clearing the way for the Fort Meade Way.

The gravel bypass connecting Interstate 90 with S.D. Highway 34 east of Sturgis is scheduled to be ready next July. Officials say the goal is to spur growth east of Sturgis and ease traffic congestion during the annual motorcycle rally that draws hundreds of thousands of people to the area.

“We’re not unaware that there is opposition to this road, but we do believe it is in the best interest of the county to move forward, and that’s what we decided to do,” Commissioner Galen Niederwerder said.

Opponents worry about the road’s effect on Sturgis businesses, and about possible encroachment on homes and ranches along the route. But Judge Jerome Eckrich on Monday rejected their lawsuit, saying the Meade County Taxpayers for Responsible Government could not force the county to stop moving forward on developing the road. Opposition group spokesman Rod Baumberger said continuing to fight likely would be costly and fruitless.

The county awarded the construction contract to Zandstra Construction.

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