History of the South Dakota Department of Transportation, 1956 - Present

The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) is one of South Dakota State government's largest agencies. Although it has played a vital role in economic development and contributed to the high quality of life in South Dakota there is no reliable, comprehensive, and accessible written history of its activities from 1956 to the present. Neither is there a recorded oral history of the men and women who served the SDDOT and the state during that period. The loss of institutional knowledge limits complete understanding of the Department's past and present and limits the Department's ability to respond to inquiries from public officials, the media, and the public. Many changes have occurred during the last fifty years, including the transformation of the South Dakota Department of Highways into the South Dakota Department of Transportation. State and federal legislation has changed funding mechanisms and SDDOT's responsibilities, as reflected in the purchase of the Milwaukee Road rail line in northern South Dakota and expanded roles in public transit and aeronautics. Other changes--including boards, commissions, reorganizations, and down-sizing--have affected SDDOT's organizational structure. Fuel taxes have historically funded improvements but rising costs have recently eroded purchasing power and forced changes in assistance to local governments. SDDOT played key roles in emergency response during the 1972 Rapid City flood, and many significant snow storms and the resulting flooding of state and local roads in South Dakota. Changes in technology--including computers and management systems--have affected SDDOT's business processes. New designs, standards, materials, and methods of repair have altered the state's roadways. The Interstate highway system changed the way travelers, goods, and services move from city to city and state to state. In turn, state and local roadways changed to provide different farm-to-market, industrial, and economic connections. The accomplishments and changing role and organization of the SDDOT need to be documented so employees, elected officials, and the public can understand how and why the department has evolved into its current structure and mode of operation Research Objectives: 1)Document and preserve the institutional history of the SDDOT. 2)Document the changing role of the SDDOT in South Dakota since the beginning of the Interstate era in 1956. 3)Describe the organizational, technical, and functional changes in the SDDOT since 1956. 4)Define the role and contributions of the federal, state, and local governments in the development and funding of the overall transportation system in South Dakota. Research Tasks: 1)Meet with the project's technical panel to review the project scope and work plan. 2)Review and summarize the methodologies and transportation histories that other states have developed. 3)Survey SDDOT staff and managers to identify topics about the SDDOT and the statewide transportation system they think the history should address and the types of questions legislators, the media, and the general public have asked of them over the years. 4)Develop an outline of key historical themes that can be used to document the transportation history identified in the research objectives. 5)In cooperation with the technical panel, identify active and retired SDDOT personnel, contractors, Federal Highway Administration personnel, other government officials, and others who can be interviewed to obtain historical perspectives. 6)Create an index of records, databases, and other transportation documents that can be used to document South Dakota's transportation history including their availability and locations. 7)Review and summarize pertinent records and documents that have been generated by the SDDOT since 1956. 8)Review and summarize publicly available information relating to SDDOT's significant activities since 1956. 9)Based on the literature review and survey of SDDOT personnel, develop an interview guide that can be used in oral interviews with the persons identified in task five. 10)Meet with the technical panel to review and finalize the interview guide and selection of candidates for the oral interviews. 11)After obtaining permission from the interviewees to use the information to document SDDOT history, conduct, record, and transcribe the oral interviews. 12)Based on the interviews and reviews of records and documents, prepare a more detailed outline of key historical themes and meet with the technical panel for review and approval. 13)Prepare a draft chapter for one historical theme selected by the project's technical panel and submit it to the technical panel for review and approval. 14)Meet with the technical panel to review the draft chapter. 15)Upon review and approval of the draft chapter, prepare additional chapters and submit them to the technical panel for review and approval. 16)Incorporate the technical panel's comments into a revised "History of the SDDOT" document suitable for publication. 17)Prepare an executive summary of the research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations. 18)Make an executive presentation to the SDDOT Research Review Board at the conclusion of the project.