SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Do not be fooled, 'The Bridges of Minnehaha County' are far from romantic; in fact they could use a little work.
"We're not very happy that all these problems are coming along just now, but we've got it taken care of," Minnehaha County commissioner Jeff Barth said.
The bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River just west of Baltic has been closed for more than a week now. It's 56 years-old and has endured its fair share of traffic over the years.
But, it is not the only one. Crumbling concrete and structure damage are hitting bridges all over the county, including three bridges on Highway 121; also know as EROSdata Road, just east of Sioux Falls.
Barth urges drivers to proceed with caution. The Minnehaha County Highway Department handles about 200 bridges and 30 of them already have weight restrictions.
"There's always the concern that people will try to sneak through with an overweight vehicle. Those things certainly cause damage," Barth said.
Replacing these three bridges over the next few years could cost about $5 million.
The county will identify other bridge repairs and replacements based on priority. There is $9 million in a highway fund, collected from wheel tax and vehicle registration fees, to pay for these projects.
This comes just months after county officials said we had a big gap in the general budget, and public safety departments were hurting for cash. County Commissioners approved a $4 million opt out of the state property tax freeze, thus raising property taxes.
Barth said the $9 million in the highway fund could not have changed this outcome, because it can only be used for road projects.
Some of these repairs could affect you come winter. Barth says snow plows cannot drive over these bridges because they are too heavy for the weight restrictions. He is aware of the inconveniences, and knows this could affect area businesses and how much trucks can haul during harvest season. Safety, however, is Barth's main concern.
"Let's face it, having people killed because of a catastrophic collapse, it's not worth it to take that chance and we can't afford to take that chance as a county," Barth said.
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