On an overcast Saturday in early August, hundreds of Harley Davidson motorcycles roar along Highway 385 in the Northern Black Hills, heading to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
ADB Companies Senior Project Manager Robert Rodriguez stands on the side of Silver City Road, just a few hundred feet from the roar of the bikes and directs his crew on the initial stages of SDN Communications’ ReConnect projects. The plan for the next week or so – to dig and lay conduit from Highway 385 along Silver City Road to Silver City. Once the conduit is installed, ADB will blow the fiber into it.
This stretch of fiber is just a small part of two ReConnect projects, which will eventually include 85 miles of fiber. The end result will be high-speed connectivity in the area shown along the Highway 385 corridor.
“Once complete, ReConnect will connect the Black Hills in a way it’s never been before. It’s exciting,” says Steve Angerhofer, a founder and partner of FARR Technologies, the South Dakota company managing SDN's ReConnect projects.
Currently, residents and visitors to the Black Hills – like those motorcyclists heading to Sturgis – face limited internet and phone connectivity along Highway 385 from Hill City to Lead/Deadwood. Silver City residents use satellites and cell boosters to get internet access and phone service, and even that doesn’t always work for them. The Silver City Volunteer Fire Department struggles with communications during fire calls.
But ReConnect 1 and 2 will change all that.
The ReConnect projects are bringing high-speed internet to the communities of Silver City, Nemo and Rochford, making it possible for cell phone and wireless internet providers to serve those communities and a section of Highway 385. ReConnect 1 involves laying fiber along the stretch of Highway 44 from Rapid City to Highway 385 before branching off to Nemo, Rochford and Silver City. ReConnect 2 travels along Highway 385, connecting Lead and Hill City.
In July, Woonsocket company Evers Drilling dug the area for the tower platform and supervised the pouring of the concrete on the outskirts of Silver City. This is where crews installed the first 120-foot monopole in mid-August. It’s just the first of ten.
Fiber will connect the towers at an average cost of $100,000 per mile. Inflation and the shallow depth of the rock in the Black Hills makes it the most expensive fiber build in the state. Crews will often need to use a saw to cut into the rock and place the fiber at the required 36 to 42-inch depth.
So far, Rodriguez says the crew has been pleasantly surprised to discover little rock along the Silver City Road – at least initially. This has allowed them to use basic trenching equipment without requiring the rock saw. When the conduit must cross an intersection or go over a culvert, ADB bores horizontally beneath the surface.
Once the stretch from Highway 385 to Silver City is complete, the crew will move to Highway 44 and begin digging the approximately 18 miles from Highway 385 to the outskirts of Rapid City. Rodriguez expects that stretch will require more of the rock saw and borer than the Silver City Road stretch.
“We believe Highway 44 is going to have a lot of rock,” he says.
Rodriguiez’s crew plans to work until the first winter freeze and have a solid goal for the Silver City Road portion of the project.
“Our priority is to get an antenna up and running this year,” Rodriguez says.
And we’ll let you know when that happens. People with property in the Black Hills or who have interest in the ReConnect projects can receive updates by subscribing to SDN Communications’ ReConnect Newsletter using the form below.