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South Dakota Roads Worst in Region, Says Smart Reporter Citing DFP as Authority

Hey, Jon, Kristi: how about spending “the Biden bucks” on fixing South Dakota’s roads? Todd Epp notices a Consumer Affairs survey of drivers and review of government reports that finds South Dakota’s roads rating sixth-worst in the nation:

ConsumerAffairs recently published an analysis of which states have the worst (and best) roads of 2021.

This holiday season, drivers traveling through Rhode Island, Hawaii, Wisconsin, California, Massachusetts, South Dakota, New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan and New York are in for the bumpiest rides. Weather conditions and low infrastructure budgets have led to potholed and hazardous roads in these states, according to the new study.

Those traveling through the Midwest, Upper Great Plains and South — particularly Kansas, Alabama, North Dakota, Kentucky, Florida and Idaho — should experience smoother travel than road warriors in parts of the Northeast [Todd Epp, “Survey: South Dakota Ranks as the #6 Worst Roads in the U.S.,” KELO Radio, 2021.12.21].

In its brief on South Dakota’s rough roads, Consumer Affairs says bad transportation infrastructure costs each South Dakota driver $562 a year in additional repairs. Consumer Affairs also cites this humble blog to explain our rocky roads:

In South Dakota, there are more than 1,030 bridges and over 2,030 highway miles in poor condition. Each year, drivers pay $562 in costs due to driving on roads needing repair.

The majority of roads in the Rushmore State aren’t even paved.  About 75% of South Dakota’s 83,609 miles of roads are gravel or dirt, according to South Dakota Magazine.

A Clark County resident said that Highway 212 to Highway 28 is “atrocious. It’s almost undrivable.” Survey respondents rated South Dakota’s roads as 2 out of 10 — the worst score on our survey.

Why are South Dakota roads so bad?

“Governor Kristi Noem is hoarding all that coronavirus money until she figures out a way to spend it to fix our roads,” according to the Dakota Free Press. Contributing factors include:

  • Poor infrastructure
  • Not enough maintenance on rural roads
  • Bad lighting and slippery road conditions [Kathryn Parkman, “2021 U.S. Road Conditions by State,” Consumer Affairs, 2021.12.10].

(Thank you for reading, Kathryn!)

The Dakota Free Press article Consumer Affairs cites is from August 2020, when I noted that a Bloomberg article ranked South Dakota’s roads as fourth-worst in the nation. Hmmm… maybe our roads are getting better….

By Parkman’s account, South Dakota’s roads are the worst in the region. Nebraska is next worst, ranking #12 for crummy roads, followed by Montana at #20, Iowa at #22, Wyoming at #26, Minnesota at #33, and North Dakota at #48.


  1. Jim Fitzgerald 2021-12-23 08:44

    And it won’t get any better unless the current slate of legislative candidates improves. Candidates like Ron Moeller…they don’t have a real plan, and they won’t offer real solutions. He couldn’t even sell his message to his neighbors, who refused to elect him in 2014 to a county-level position in Idaho. Here’s the link:

    And here’s the story:
    Kunz beats Moeller
    TVN Staff May 20, 2014 Updated Jun 30, 2016 0

    Incumbent Republican Sid Kunz beats newcomer Ron Moeller in the primary election to represent District 1 on the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Unofficial results from all seven precincts and absentee voters put Kunz ahead 744 votes to 375, a 32 percent margin. As the results trickled in through the night, Kunz held a steady, but minimal lead. Yet, when the final results were posted, it was a landslide, 369 more supporters when only 1,119 voted. The turnout was at 33.7 percent of registered voters who cast ballots. Kunz will face Democrat Cindy Riegel as the Republican candidate for county commissioner in the November General Election.

    Moeller conceded, “I’m humbled and grateful for all the support our campaign received. The discussion and the hard questions our campaign stated I hope it will continue. I look forward to helping the Republican ticket in November.”

    Moeller said he will continue to attend BoCC until summer activities take precedence.

  2. mike from iowa 2021-12-23 08:48

    iowa pushed through a 10 cent per gallon gas tax a few years back dedicated to finishing the Hiway 20 four lane project across iowa, which is now done. We don’t hate taxes. Without taxes, we’d do without many goods and services, something magats can’t seem to fathom.

  3. larry kurtz 2021-12-23 09:08

    South Dakota Democrats need to run on a corporate income tax, taxing farm implements to fix roads, ending video lootery, reducing the number of South Dakota counties to 25 and turning Dakota State and/or Northern State University into community colleges.

  4. Francis Schaffer 2021-12-23 10:03

    For the majority of roads in our local counties and townships ‘fixing’ the road doesn’t solve the actual problem. The water next to the road causes the damage to the road. If we begin to remove water in the township and county rights of way and keep it from reaccumulating the road will not need to be fixed; just routine maintenance. FEMA needs to do this instead of adding rock/gravel every time a weather event floods the road again.

  5. jerry 2021-12-23 10:43

    If I may, video lottery was passed for education money. The absolute legalization of pot could be taxed for infrastructure projects in addition to what you listed.

  6. sx123 2021-12-23 11:19

    I can confirm that some of the paved roads around here are like riding a bucking bronco.

  7. Porter Lansing 2021-12-23 12:32

    Not bragging at all. Just pointing out that when Democrats make promises on spending lottery money, they mean it.

    – Since 1985, the Colorado Lottery has given more than $3.7 billion back to parks, trails, open spaces and recreation projects across the state.
    – It’s the only Lottery in the country dedicated to funding the great outdoors.

  8. Arlo Blundt 2021-12-23 13:28

    Well….South Dakotans are champions of “White Knuckle” driving all winter long. It makes able bodied elderly folks shut ins for 4 months and creates conditions that lead to tragedy. South Dakota hasn’t had a short term or long term highway improvement plan supported fiscally year after year by the legislature since Nils Boe’s “Farm to Market” ten year plan.We just piece and patch. Improving highways throughout the state reqyures strong leadership which has not been provided over the last fifyu uears on a consistent basis by our Republican Governors.

  9. Scott 2021-12-23 13:29

    Most of these rural paved county roads were built long before anybody anticipated 100 Bu/Acre corn yields, 8 row corn heads, or semi-trailers being used for harvest. Today its 200 bu/acre corn, 16 row corn heads, 2000 bu grain carts, and semis pulling double trailers. The pavements were just not designed for the loads that are being placed upon them today. To make matters worse, there are no shoulders on most county roads and these wide heavy loads cause extreme damage to the edge of the roadway. What really needs to be done is rebuild these roads so they are wider and have more pavement thickness for today’s farm equipment and truck traffic.

    Nobody wants to pay any more taxes for these types of improvements, so its patch these roads ever year, live with the holes and rough roads, and just bitch about bad roads. It takes vision to comes up with fixes and republicans just do not want to spend the time or effort to do that type of thing.

  10. Mark Anderson 2021-12-23 14:00

    Well federal spending goes way back. The sidewalks in Highmore were all wet pants Annie’s.
    I’m sure they still are.

  11. jerry 2021-12-23 14:01

    Nailed it Scott.

  12. Arlo Blundt 2021-12-23 19:48

    Scott is correct. Just about all paved county highways date back to the “Farm to Market” road program of Nils Boe and Archie Gubbrud in the 60’s. By the time of the Kneip administration, Republicans were whining that South Dakota had too many highways and needed to end the farm to market road program and eliminate certain state highways. Highway funding was concentrated on certain trunk highways and to maintenance of the interstate system

  13. grudznick 2021-12-23 20:03

    Lar! Some of your and my best friends *CoughBobCough* will be very upset if we end the video game lottery. Shush.

  14. mike from iowa 2021-12-24 09:16

    In iowa, where we do pay taxes, everyone complained about damage to primary and secondary roads by oversized “Honey Wagons” full of liquid hog waste. A quick solution was to add more axles to spread the weight out more evenly and much of the severe damage disappeared.

    I must admit, seeing the damage done to shoulders of Hiways 10 and 59 by big rigs hauling oversize wind turbine parts, made manure hauling damage pale in comparison. Gravel intersections where wide turns were needed were rebuilt as needed. They were eventually restored to near original condition.

  15. Mark Anderson 2021-12-24 17:14

    You know my comment about the WPA is all over South Dakota. You can look it up, bridges, government buildings, schools, sidewalks, roads. The federal government has done well by South Dakota. Too bad nobody there appreciates it.

  16. grudznick 2021-12-24 17:22

    Mr. Anderson, grudznick can appreciate your WPA comments. Pactola dam was built by the WPA in 1940. It was used to construct many dams, grade many miles of road. They built a bunch of sanitary privies. And in 1936 they built the dinosaur park up there on the hill. The WPA was a swell deal for Rapid City.

  17. Arlo Blundt 2021-12-24 17:34

    Mark–you’re so correct and its not only Rapid City and the Hills that benefitted from WPA. Read Alton Lee’s book, “A New Deal for South Dakota” for a thorough accounting of New Deal initiatives in South Dakota. Governor Berry, a conservative, wheeler dealer, cattle raising Democrat and Senator Bulow, a lawyer from Beresford who was an extremely conservative Democrat, lobbied the Roosevelt administration successfully throughout the 30’s. South Dakota got as much federal money as any state. Eleanor Roosevelt’s top advisor had grown up poor in Bowdle and Aberdeen and frequently visited in South Dakota and Eleanor lobbied for South Dakota as did Harry Hopkins. Roosevelt got a big kick out of Berry, thought he was an authentic western character. The Republicans, true to form, criticized both the WPA and CCC and couldn’t wait to end the programs in South Dakota.

  18. grudznick 2021-12-24 18:04

    The big difference between the WPA and CCC and the gravy trains of today is that back then those fellows had to get out and work, put some sweat onto the dirt and dig with their muscles. Today, slackards just sit at home smoking cigs and the demon weed they bought with their “stimulus” checks and nobody wants to go earn an honest day’s wage.

  19. Porter Lansing 2021-12-25 07:59

    grinchnick has as inflated of an imagination as he has a belly inflated with carbohydrate laden heart killers.

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