The Process Behind Closing The Interstate
SOUTH DAKOTA– Closing an interstate is a big decision. Some folks require the main highway to get to work or to run errands. The process behind closing one, takes a team effort.
Interstate 29 closed north of Sioux Falls at 6pm on the evening of February 7th, and didn’t open again until 7am the morning of the 8th. Understandably, the closing came after blizzard conditions made travel unsafe. Greg Fuller, Director of Operations for the DOT in South Dakota, said: “We had very light, fluffy snow, and extremely high winds. Drifting behind the plows was happening pretty quickly where we could not keep the highway in a safe and passable condition”.
Fuller says the process starts with the engineers at the local level. Those engineers then coordinate with the highway patrol, who propose when and where interstate closings need to occur. That proposal is then brought to the the Secretary of Transportation and Public Safety, before a decision is final, and made by the DOT.
“What we’ll do is close the gates and we’ll go make a sweep to make sure that, that everybody is out the closed portion of the interstate”, said Fuller. After that is done, the official closure begins.
Putting yourself in danger by ignoring, and driving around the barricade can come with consequences. Fuller said, “It is a class two misdemeanor, to go around and ignore a closure gate. So, yes, there is a fine for that”.
According to state law, going around the barricade and getting caught can cost you $1,000. If you need rescuing on a closed interstate, that can be up to $10,000, and even jail time.