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Local Bridges Statewide In Need Of Work

April 22, 2014, 5:45 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Local Bridges Statewide In Need Of Work

Local bridges in the state are aging faster than money is coming in to fix them.

According to the South Dakota Department of Transportation, half the county, township and city bridges are 50 years or older. That's the average life expectancy of a bridge. A quarter of the local bridges are 75 years or older.

Local bridges and culverts across the state are in need of one half billion dollars worth of work. Only a fraction of that money comes each year to chip away at the need.

The state directs $7.8 million in federal funding toward bridge replacement each year. More than $1 million is used for inspections, leaving $6.5 million for local projects state-wide.

Brown County commissioners have heard from several people about structures that need to be replaced.

"You can't get across it with big equipment. Nobody would drive over it anyhow because this thing has probably been built in the 1900s," Glenn Ringgenberg told commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

Ringgenberg told commissioners he'd like to see a culvert put in where the old bridge he was talking about sits now. His need is one of many in the county and state.

Based on inspection results, the Department of Transportation sends local officials a list of bridges which are eligible to be replaced using federal funding. County officials then submit requests to the state for the money.

The current waiting list is backlogged up to 12 years, said Laurie Schultz, administration program manager with the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

"Right now, if we were to program a new bridge today, the earliest it would enter into the federal bridge program would be 2024. So we've been trying to come up with alternatives," Brown County Highway Superintendent Dirk Rogers said.

At the state level, the SDDOT is forming a committee to determine how to prioritize bridges on the list and how much funding a project should get.

In Brown County, officials are looking at local dollars and other federal funding sources that can be used to keep up with the bridges.

"Prioritize and do what we can to the extent that we can to make everything safe and passable," Commission Chair Duane Sutton said.

In Garland Township where he lives, Ringgenberg says it might even work for nearby landowners, the township and county to all pitch in and replace some aging bridges.

"We just want to work together, but we'd like to get this done," Ringgenberg said.

A big reason for the backlog of replacements is timing; 680 local bridges in the state were built in the 1930s.

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