Rally construction delays cost South Dakota big bucks

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally brings in thousands of visitors to the Black Hills and millions of dollars in economic impact each year. During the Rally however, road projects have to be put on hold, prompting unforeseen costs.

South Dakota is described by some as having two seasons: winter and construction. During the Rally in the peak of summer, the Department of Transportation (DOT) pushes some projects back to clear up roads for visitors, costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It costs us extra time, money and effort," said DOT Rapid City Area Engineer Mike Carlson. "There are construction projects we have throughout the year that we’ve had to accelerate construction, so that costs the state more money."

Just before the Rally, many construction crews work overtime to finish the projects before the increased traffic arrives in the Black Hills. During the Rally, there’s a 10-day construction blackout. It also takes an additional two weeks to take operations down and open them back up. In all, the state misses out on around a month of prime summer construction.

Carlson estimated that depending on the project, deconstructing and then setting back up can cost upward of $1 million.

To save money, the DOT is now reevaluating which projects can continue throughout the Rally, such as the West Chicago Street project.

But, some may ask, why not have projects done sooner? Often, it’s a race against time for the DOT to have roads open for the Rally. Bad weather and site conditions can delay projects, even after allotting extra time at the beginning of the season to make up for inclement weather.

"That delays us," said Carlson. "And when that delays us, we still have to get that amount of [work] done. And so the last two weeks, we are scrambling to get everything done so we can open everything up again."

As the Rally continues to grow, the DOT has to predict costs depending on attendance.

"Twenty-five years ago, it became a lot bigger, and it took us a while to catch up," said Carlson. "Now that we’re caught up, we’re trying to manage our costs as best we can."

Even with the lost construction time and added costs, many say the Rally’s economic and cultural impact outweighs the setbacks.