Wildlife Loop in Custer to get upgrades
This is Custer State Park Route 3, a gravel road that shortcuts across the southern segment of the wildlife loop. (American News photo by Bob Mercer / May 25, 2013)
During the period of heavy traffic associated with the Sturgis motorcycle rally in early August, officials placed what are known as dynamic messaging boards along the narrow, curling route.
The boards are portable versions of the electronic warning signs along some stretches of interstate highway. They are often used at road construction projects.
The state Department of Transportation worked with Custer State Park staff last summer to start on an accident-reduction project for the Wildlife Loop.
DOT determined that part of the loop, between CSP Route 3 and Four Mile Draw Road, met the requirements for federal aid under the high risk rural roads program.
State records showed 11 crashes on that stretch since 2004, according to park manager Matt Snyder. Six were on the switchback curves, one was on another curve east of the switchbacks, and four involved collisions with wildlife.
The crashes took place in the afternoons and early evenings during the rally.
“Tired riders and speed were large contributors to the accident. None of these accidents were fatalities,” Snyder said.
No accidents were reported along the loop during the rally last summer with the message boards in place.
DOT now plans to go ahead with other safety improvements such as improved signage along the switchbacks and replacement of existing guard rail.
The state Transportation Commission recently amended its 2013 construction plan to add the Wildlife Loop work.
It calls for up to $450,000 of federal aid and $50,000 from the park, although a state Division of Parks and Recreation official said he hasn’t seen any estimates that high. Al Nedved said the most recent estimate for the guardrail was $157,662.