PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Transportation Commission adopted a new version of rules Thursday requiring reduced speeds on three major highways through or near Sturgis during the annual motorcycle rally.
Officials at the state Department of Transportation had discovered existing rules wouldn’t cover the entire period of this year’s rally, scheduled for Friday, August 7, through Sunday, August 16.
The proposed changes call for the slower speeds beginning on the Thursday before the rally starts, and running through the second Sunday of the rally.
The old rules, because of odd wording and the calendar, would have applied this year only to the first few days of the rally.
DOT lawyer Karla Engle described the old rules Thursday as “flawed.”
The new rules would still cover the area’s major roads:
No more than 65 miles per hour on Interstate 90 between Rapid City and the Sturgis area;
No more than 35 mph on SD 34, starting at Blanche Street in Sturgis, and continuing east for 3.8 miles; and
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No more than 45 mph on two stretches of SD 79, from its intersection with SD 34 north for 1.75 miles, and again for eight-tenths of a mile in the area of the intersection with Bighorn Road.
The commission added the Bighorn stretch as part of this year’s changes.
Sturgis officials, because of COVID-19, won’t decide until June 15 whether to allow rally-related events in the city.
But Meade County is providing vendor licenses and private-events operators are continuing with their plans outside the city limits.
Sturgis city officials formally supported the commission’s changes Thursday. No one else sent written comments, and no one appeared to testify at the public hearing.
The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee now has to consider whether the commission correctly acted. The next rules-review meeting is June 9.
If the legislators give the green light, the changes then would take effect 20 days after being filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State office.
Several Transportation Commission members said Thursday they expect Sturgis will see considerable traffic from bikers this August, regardless what city officials decide.
“This is their vacation. This is their life. They’re going to come hell or high water,” commissioner Benj Stoick of Mobridge said.
From South Dakota proposed rules site: “The Department of Transportation proposes to revise the dates for temporary reduced speed limits on Interstate Highway 90 between Sturgis and Rapid City, State Trunk Highway 34 in Sturgis, and State Trunk Highway 79 immediately north of its intersection with State Trunk Highway 34 in Meade County. Under the current rules, the temporary speed limit reductions do not always apply throughout the rally. Under the revised rules, the temporary speed limit reductions will begin the day before the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and will continue through the end of the rally. The purpose of these rule revisions is to promote safety by ensuring reduced speed limits are in place to accommodate increased traffic volumes during the entire rally. The Department of Transportation is also proposing a new temporary speed limit reduction on State Trunk Highway 79 in and around its intersection with Big Horn Road in Meade County. This temporary reduced speed limit will also begin the day before the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and continue through the end of the rally. The purpose of this new rule provision is to promote safety in an area with increased turning movements during the rally.”