Mount Rushmore Road (also known as 8th Street) is part of Highway 16 that passes through Rapid City and is the primary corridor to Mount Rushmore. In 2007, planning started on improving the busy road which sees 30,000 vehicles a day. The premise of the Mount Rushmore Road Development Plan is that an "economically healthy, efficient, and visually appealing corridor will benefit the entire Rapid City community." The plan is community-based, initiated by the city but involving residents and business throughout the process. A corridor study was done in 2009. In August 2010, $2 million from the Vision Fund were approved for use in the beautification, which will add a median and remove on-street parking among other changes. The initial phase of construction is set for 2014, covering from Cathedral Drive to St. Patrick Street.
The Development Plan outlines several objectives for the project:
- Increase business & private investment- the project should stabilize existing businesses and make new investments more desirable.
- Create a distinctive image and experience- the main path to Mt. Rushmore should look like something more than just a generic street.
- Development opportunities- redeveloping underused locations along the road.
- Complete transportation- the road should permit all users- cars along the roadway, bicycles on bike paths, and walkways for foot travel along and across the road (the road shouldn't be a barrier to pedestrians)
- Improved functional safety- the project will look at increased safety and solving problems such as friction between local and thorough traffic, and conflicting driveway cuts.
- Environmental sustainability- project will look at the negative environmental effects that corridors like Mt. Rushmore Road encounter and how to avoid or minimize them.
- Mutually reinforcing neighborhood connections- the project understands Mt. Rushmore Road's place in the area, and how it interacts with the surrounding neighborhoods.
In October 2012, some business owners on the corridor objected to the removal of on-street parking and the addition of a median. The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) argued that these changes were necessary for safety and the overall effect would benefit businesses. Business owners felt the removal of parking would make them less accessible to customers. The Rapid City Council listened to both sides, but the plan, with removal of parking and addition of a median, had already been approved in 2010. A state statute required specific approval of the parking removal; the city council voted unanimously to approve at their October 15th meeting.
In February 2013, the SDDOT announced that the project would now be done in three year-long phases.
Entering into February 2014, the first phase was now expected to start in April, giving a final date of completion in 2017. The first phase was expected to take 160 working days to complete.
The DOT rejected all the bids for the project as too high in April 2014. They announced they would look at the project to find the reasons for the high bids. New bids were taken at the end of summer. The new bids came in even higher than the original. The DOT considered rejecting, but ended up accepting the $12 million bid from Upper Plains Contracting. Construction is set to start in November 2014.
Mt Rushmore Road Group- Organization of business owners and residents around Mt. Rushmore Road, formed in 2005 with a mission "to improve safety and aesthetics of Mount Rushmore Road for the community and visitors"
Mt. Rushmore Road Corridor Study- City website on the project, with before and after photos, the approved plan, and appendices used in the decision process.
- Final Report- The Complete Mount Rushmore Road Corridor Study
- Before and After- Photographs of Mount Rushmore Road as it is now, and drawings of how it will be after construction.
From the archives- BHKN's collection of stories and documents related to the Mt. Rushmore Road Corridor