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Riley Bros. lands $54.6 million record breaker

Riley Brothers of Morris will be the main contractor on a record-setting road project in Minnehaha County, South Dakota in Sioux Falls. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times

Riley Brothers Construction of Morris and the State of South Dakota made history in 2017 when the company received the bid award for a $54,665,168.60 state project in Minnehaha County in Sioux Falls.

"It's the largest project the state of South Dakota has let," said Travis Dressen of the South Dakota Department of Transportation district that includes Sioux Falls.

The project includes five new bridges along a one-mile route. The project will connect the new South Dakota Highway 100 in Sioux Falls from Rice Street to Exit 402 on Interstate 90 in northeastern Sioux Falls, Dressen said.

"We knew it was going to be big. We didn't have any idea of the (historic)magnitude it was," said Larry Swann of Riley Brothers. Swann has worked for Riley Brothers for two years. He's worked in the construction industry for about 37 years. "This is the biggest job of my career," he said.

Construction in the form of removing trees and shrubs or "grubbing" is expected to start this week, said John Stanley, the chief executive officer of Riley Brothers.

The construction phase is 2 ½ years. The expected completion date is Aug. 28, 2020, Dressen said.

The size and scope of the project requires "a lot of equipment, a lot of management," Dressen said.

Riley Brothers will work with subcontractors who will handle various parts of the project. One key contractor is Lunda Construction of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Lunda specializes in building transportation bridges.

Stanley said project of this size it's even more critical to work with subcontractors who are reputable and responsible.

"If we have a $500,000 job and somebody doesn't perform (their piece), we can do the work for them. (But) In this case, we don't do bridges ourselves," Stanley said.

Riley Brothers could have worked with more than one bridge contractor but because of efficiency and consistency, it chose one contractor, Stanley said.

Before any main contractor is officially awarded a bid, the bidder is vetted by the state to make sure the company has the ability to handle the project.

Riley Brothers did its own research before it submitted a bid on the project.

"We put in hours and hours on that bid," Stanley said.

"I'm proud of everyone involved in this," Swann said.

The company investigated prospective subcontractors, gathered estimates on material, caculated costs for labor, determined the labor need and other factors before making the bid.

The project will be in a "huge growth area" of Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County Dressen said. The project will alleviate traffic congestion in that area of Interstate 229 and on secondary roads in the area, Dressen said.

The Rice Street section "up until two years ago was a gravel road," Dressen said.

The Sioux Falls metropolitian area has a population of 178,000, Dressen said. Traffic in northeastern Sioux Falls and nearby Brandon Valley will benefit but so will traffic flowing to and from Harrisburg, Tea and Hartford, South Dakota on the southwest and southeast sides, Dressen said.

"A lot of folks are excited to see this project connection," Dressen said.

"This is one big, high profile project for South Dakota," Swann said.

And it's important that schedules are met, Dressen and Stanley said.

Stanley said some timelines are down to the minute when traffic is directly impacted.

"We will have meetings every week on construction," Swann said. Those meetings cover progress, traffic detours and other factors, he said.

Although Riley Brothers has completed projectst of $50 million and slightly more, this is the largest, Stanley said.

"This puts us in the record books. We're excited to do this," Stanley said.

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