PIERRE — The effort to preserve a four-lane South Dakota Highway 46 in Wagner has hit a dead end, at least for now.
On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee of the South Dakota Legislature voted 4-2 to send Resolution 701 — part of what Wagner residents have called “Save The Four Lane” — to the 41st day of the session. The procedural move kills a measure, as the session doesn’t last that long.
Sen. Randy Deibart moved and Sen. Kyle Schoenfish seconded a substitute motion for the 41st day.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed converting the current four-lane road — two lanes in each direction — into a three-lane highway with one lane in each direction and a middle turning lane.
The DOT proposal has received some local support but also a large measure of opposition. A petition drive last year collected 1,561 signatures in favor of saving the four-lane. Also, Wagner residents rejected the City Council’s support for the three-lane proposal by a 133-64 margin in a special city election last December.
As a way of expressing those local sentiments, State Sens. Shawn Bordeaux (D-Mission) and Erin Tobin (R-Winner) sponsored Senate Resolution 701 in the South Dakota Legislature. The resolution, which called for the DOT to reconsider its three-lane proposal, was assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee.
On Wednesday, the Transportation Committee heard an amended Resolution 701, which expressed support for the DOT’s four-lane alternative for Highway 46, a major travel artery across the state.
The Transportation Committee’s meeting was audio streamed, which the Press & Dakotan accessed. The board received testimony from Wagner residents supporting the resolution followed by the DOT’s Mike Behm answering committee questions.
Tobin addressed the committee, noting she sponsored the resolution in response to her District 21 constituents in Wagner and elsewhere.
“I want to urge the committee to look at the process and the open testimony and consider what this would mean for further negotiation (on local wishes) for communities across South Dakota,” she said.
District 21 Rep. Marty Overweg (R-Corsica), also speaking on behalf of District 21 Rep. Rocky Blare (R-(Ideal), spoke of the desire to find a solution that meets the needs of Wagner residents and those traveling through the area.
“I urge the committee to listen to the facts and fix this as best we can, that we get awareness today and something figured out,” Overweg said.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, Vice Chair Jessica Castleberry expressed her concerns about the Legislature becoming involved in attempts to override a DOT decision. The South Dakota Transportation Commission, which holds final authority over highway funding and projects, has included the Highway 46 project on its five-year plan.
“I would like to thank the community of Wagner for sharing their thoughts and their concerns and struggles,” she said, noting the residents’ efforts. “But I also weigh that with knowing that our Highway Commission does a good job and that they have to weight a lot of concerns and a lot of different aspects for highways all over the state of South Dakota.”
Castleberry noted a resolution doesn’t change DOT decisions.
“As Senator (Larry) Zikmund alluded to, a Senate resolution is nice and a good way to communicate feelings,” she said. “(But) when it comes to what the reality is of whether it will actually have an impact, a resolution is a nice statement, but it really doesn’t carry any more weight than being a nice statement.”
Castleberry raised concerns about the resolution’s precedent.
“This is something where we look at, how can we insert the Legislature into the decision-making process for a commission?” she asked. “And is that something we want to set a precedent for? And do we really have the authority? That’s the question this committee has to consider as it votes today.”
The majority of her fellow committee members chose not to send the resolution to the Senate floor. Besides Castleberry, “aye” votes to defer the measure were cast by Deibart, Schoenfish and Liz Larson. The “no” votes were cast by Sens. Arch Beal and Zikmund. The seventh member, committee chairman Sen. Josh Klumb, was excused from the meeting.
The DOT’s Mike Behm said the proposed Wagner project takes into account both motorists and pedestrians. The department remains firm in its support for the three-lane project as meeting all needs at the best use of taxpayers’ dollars.
The Transportation Commission made its decision after a hearing lasting about an hour, including passionate testimony from Wagner residents opposing the three-lane proposal.
Those concerns ranged from the impact on businesses and pedestrians to feelings that local residents’ voices have not been heard.
During the latter part of the hearing, the DOT’s Behm provided answers on why his department believes the three-lane conversion offers the best option for decades to come. He emphasized that the DOT has conducted a number of public meetings and listened to residents’ concerns.
The hour-long meeting included testimony from about a half-dozen Wagner residents.
One businessman, whose name was unavailable, said he holds “the utmost respect” for the DOT staff, including the Mitchell regional office overseeing the project.
“We simply vastly disagree on the picture of the traffic needs in the Wagner area, and we’re extremely passionate about this issue that will affect us for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said.
The DOT has listed safety as a major concern, and Wagner residents agree but feel the current four-lane is the right choice, the man said.
Wagner resident Leo Soukup spoke about his concerns with local safety, given what he termed the narrower highway, while Jeff Stewart said the DOT should respect local feelings on the project. He pointed to the current crash statistics for the four-lane Highway 46 that are favorable compared to similar roadways.
Dana Sanderson, a retired Wagner school counselor, said he was visiting a South Dakota community that had undergone a similar conversion from four lanes to three lanes on their highway. During his conversations with those community’s residents, he received strong negative comments about the three-lane configuration.
The committee received other oral and written testimony from Wagner residents.
The DOT is looking at two years for construction, Behm added.
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Maybe they can move on now. The Redi-mix man will sell a lot of concrete and gravel either way. The real estate agent is going to buy cheap property and the resident foot traffic will get new side walks the length of town, the city will get new street lighting and water and sewr lines free of charge, truckers and farmers will get a much needed turn lane along with wider turns on the truck routes. All free of charge to the residents of the town. To bad its not a city street, then they could raise taxs to cover the cost of the upgrade, then they would have nothing to complain about, they would be on their own and make their own decisions. Move on folks. Fix thing s that might be a little more important in your town like crime,drugs, housing shortage, unemlpyment, school graduation numbers, lack of new housing starts, atract new business and ......what ever else it would take to make your town a destination city. If thats possable.
Ar223 Please consider this your personal invitation to visit Wagner. Several individuals have indicated they would like to have you visit Wagner. They will give you the tour and show you the tremendous town that it is. You can see the 4 lane first hand and all the issues associated with it.They also said they would buy you lunch.
Please give me a call at 583 4468 when you would like to make the trip. It will be well worth your time and will help you understand the community and the issues facing it. Wagner is a dynamic community with a lot going for it.
Well Frank, I lived there for 25 years so I know the place well. Had my house broken into 3 times, car 2 times and numerus things of my kids stolen. It was a 2 lane state highway when I lived there that was converted to a 4 lane over a 2 year time frame. Remember that? How much frontage did the homeowners loose to that? Did they protest that? You talk about all the people that support it, 1500 or so, how many were actual Wagner residents? How many of them actualy own a car if they live in Wagner and drive that street? Did they just ask any person passing through town to sign their petition? It would seem to me that if that many were so passinet about it, how come only a little over 200 people showed up to vote and only a few over 160 were in support of it? I have yet to figure out your place in this other than a paid lobiest for them in Pierre. As far as you inviteing me back to that town it will never happen. I have to pass through it everytime I go to visit family and very seldom stop. They never treated our family very nice when we lived there so I see this as a little bit of carma. Life in Yankton is much better, at least there is opurtunity here and progress. But wait, didnt you say Wagner is the future Yankton of Hwy 46 with the amount of traffic? I wait to see how how can justify that comment other than seasenal weekend traffic to a campground, some of owned by the realestate agent pushing the agend in question, and a new houseing develpoment owned by the redi-mix owner. Like they say, Follow the money and you will find the truth. You should know that as you are an ex-polatition
2023 South Dakota Legislature
Senate Resolution 701
AMENDMENT SR701B FOR THE INTRODUCED RESOLUTION
Introduced by: Senator Bordeaux
This bill has been extensively amended (hoghoused) and may no longer be consistent with the original intention of the sponsor.
A RESOLUTION, Urging the South Dakota Department of Transportation to reconsider the three-lane proposal for State Highway 46Supporting the South Dakota Department of Transportation Wagner four-lane proposal.
WHEREAS, the need to keep the South Dakota Department of Transportation proposed four lane total road package including drainage, sewer, and lighting is of vital importance to the future of Wagner in any new construction or repair on Highway 46 through Wagner; and
WHEREAS, the four-lane plays a vital role in tourism, economic development, Wagner retail business, access to health care including Indian Health Services, emergency services, public education, elderly living, regional agriculture and tourism, and much more; and
WHEREAS, the four-lane has played a pivotal role in the expansion of commerce in and around Wagner; and
WHEREAS, the four-lane has provided a safe, reliable, efficient, and effective means of travel to and through Wagner for almost forty years; and
WHEREAS, on December 6, 2022, the citizens of Wagner overwhelmingly verified their rejection of the Wagner City Council’s August 29, 2022, vote to support the South Dakota Department of Transportation three-lane proposal by 133 to 64, a two to one margin; and
WHEREAS, the South Dakota Department of Transportation accident rate charts show this stretch of road significantly lower compared to similar roads in the state. It does not appear that this proposed road change will be done to improve safety. The Urban Principal Arterial Crash rate in Wagner from 2015 to 2019 was 1.16 crashes per million vehicle miles traveled while the state average is 1.95; and
WHEREAS, there is only a six percent cost difference between the four-lane and three-lane reconstruction proposals; and
WHEREAS, the South Dakota Senate recognizes the overwhelming across the board public support for the Wagner four-lanes proposal as witnessed by 1561 petition signers and overwhelming public input in support of rebuilding the four-lane highway through Wagner:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Senate of the Ninety-Eighth Legislature of the State of South Dakota, supports the South Dakota Department of Transportation four-lane reconstruction proposal for Highway 46 through Wagner.
The Wagner 4 lane issue is something that will have a 30 to 40 year impact on the region and the community. I am donating my time to helping the people of Wagner on this issue. I respectfully disagree with your analysis of the important long term and short term effects of 4 lanes converting to three lanes.
AR 123 Please consider Volunteering your time to helping others and you may have a better outlook on life. The voter turnout was around 25 percent which is ok for a city election with no one on the ballot and just after a big national and state election. There have been many twists and turns on this issue. When 1500 people sign a petition of support for an issue such as this it means something. When voters overwhelmingly disprove a city councils action it means something. When people stand together to save the Wagner 4 lane it means that the people of Wagner and the area have spoken. Will the DOT decision makers in Pierre listen? We certainly hope so for the long-term benefit of the community and the region.
Just a thought, if 1560 people signed a petition in a town of only 1530 people, wouldnt that mean everyone in the town signed it? Not possable rite? Ok, so how many of them were actual residents of the town? Has the list ever been vetted or is it just a list of signatures that have never been verified? And just for the sake of disscussion say they were all residents of the town and only 133 were in favor of it how is that an over whelming majority? Correct me if I am wrong but in the "Vote" you talk about where were all the 1560 people who signed the petition? They were not allowed to voice their support if they were not a resident of the town from what I have been told, so that shows you rite there the petition was a joke. If it effects so many people in the area why were they not allowed to voice theor opinion if it is such a critical matter to the area? The rural area people who support the local business dont have a say but yet they beg them to sign there petition? Just questions that some might have and thank you for your time to enlighten me on your side.
There are 808 registered voters in Wagner. All input on road projects statewide is welcome by the SD DOT at their annual STIP meetings. All people and companies who travel through Wagner are stakeholders in such projects and their input is important. The dilemma is DOT consistently saying that the city of Wagner has a say in the projects outcome. Then when the vote by the city residents went against the three lane proposal their spokesperson inferred that the South Dakota DOT has the say no matter what the citizens said. This is one of the most challenging issues I have ever encountered with the government consistently going against the will of the people.
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