When President Trump mentioned “tapping into private-sector investment” to help fund infrastructure projects in his 2018 State of the Union Address, a centuries-long debate was ignited. Privately funded roads were once commonplace in America. More than 2,000 companies financed and built toll roads in the 1800s. But as governments at all levels became more established, road building became, in large part, the realm of the public sector.
Today, privately funded roads are less popular because they are usually associated with tolls. As one Bloomberg headline puts it, “Privatizing roads was a great idea. Not anymore.” The Indiana Toll Road, Chicago Skyway, the Orchard Pond Parkway in Florida, and the Foley Beach Express in Alabama are examples of recently built private roads which require drivers to pay a fee in order to access them.
A third, less discussed, way of going about building roads is through a public-private partnership that involves a developer paying for the infrastructure and recouping some of the cost through a TIF. That’s exactly the kind of arrangement that exists with the East Anamosa project in Rapid City. Dream Design is footing the $10 million bill to extend Anamosa Street in order to directly connect the eastern part of Rapid to the rest of the city and create a shorter route to Rushmore Crossing. When it’s completed, Dream Design will hand over the road to the city and, like all other local roads, it will be toll-free.
The project to extend Anamosa beyond Philadelphia Street to the east is the last stretch of undeveloped major arterial road for the entire city and it’s something Rapid City has viewed as a top priority for the last several years. Unfortunately, the goal proved to be elusive for some time due to the costs associated with the extension. A substantial amount of grading (about $3 million worth) was needed to flatten the high hills and low valleys. As an arterial road, Anamosa Street is wider than most roads, so its extension requires installing large water mains, several storm sewers, turn lanes, and streetlights, and it must meet higher utility requirements.
After developing plans for new neighborhoods at Shepherd Hills and Diamond Ridge in southeastern Rapid City, Dream Design offered to build East Anamosa and the City Council gave support in the form of a TIF. The partnership will not only save money for taxpayers on the front end by not having to pay for the construction, but save time and gas expenses for those who regularly drive in the city. It will also spur more development and expand the tax base, which will then help Dream Design recoup the costs of building the road.
Kyle Treloar, Vice President of Dream Design, says the company’s number one priority with East Anamosa is to build a high-quality road for the community.
“While we are mindful of the dollars, we’re prioritizing building a safe and quality road. We’re not looking to do a quick or cheap job, but to construct something that is sustainable into the future,” Kyle said.
East Anamosa isn’t the first public-private road project funded by Dream Design. The company took a similar approach with Promise Road and Healing Way on Highway 16 where they moved dirt, conducted utility work, and then turned the section of road over to the city.
Dream Design expects to begin paving East Anamosa this fall and complete the latest portion of the project in early 2023. Once completed, the extension will shave off around 10 minutes of drive time for those who drive into the central part of the city from Rapid Valley.
All in all, it’s one privately funded road project that even Bloomberg could get behind.