November 4. 2016
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
Pierre, SD – In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, creating the interstate highway system. Along with 41,000 miles of roadway came construction of interstate rest areas, which served a dual purpose: to provide basic services for motorists and give travelers a place to get out, stretch their legs and rest.
South Dakota currently has 21 rest areas, some of which were constructed as long ago as 1969. Due to age, several of these facilities are in dire need of major maintenance, renovation or complete reconstruction. Additionally, the availability of information over mobile devices is changing the way that visitors plan their travels and access information about our state. To address these challenges, I asked staff from the departments of Tourism and Transportation to develop a revitalization plan for our rest areas.
After nearly a year of review, analysis, research and discussion, this work group developed a plan which addresses the needs and expectations of today’s motorists. Over the next few years, this plan will bring our rest areas into the modern era of travel and help us prepare for the future. Upon completion, South Dakota will offer five staffed welcome centers at our state’s borders and at Chamberlain, along with 12 additional rest areas along interstates 29 and 90.
The plan includes construction of two new welcome centers near Vermillion and on the Minnesota border, as well as an expanded and remodeled welcome center at Wilmot. These centers will be staffed during the summer months and, in addition to providing a safe place for travelers to stop, serve as South Dakota’s “front door” for vacationers seeking tourism information.
The welcome centers will be more extensive than our current rest areas. They will contain enhanced displays and exhibits as well as modern stations for travel-related information, such as road closures, weather conditions and construction. The welcome centers will provide a great first impression for our visitors, and I know South Dakotans will be proud of how well they represent our Great Faces and Great Places. For more information go to sd.gov and type “interstate” or “rest area” into the search engine.
Challenges very often lead to great opportunities. Through the changes outlined in the rest area revitalization plan, we will continue to meet the needs of our travelers and we will make South Dakota even more enticing to visitors. It’s a plan that will benefit our state well into the future.