Eye on KELOLAND: Bridge to the future

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you live or work in downtown Sioux Falls, there’s a good chance you’ve driven over the newly-upgraded 8th Street bridge by now.

Crews reopened 8th Street to traffic earlier this month after spending much of the year rehabbing the historic landmark. The century-old bridge will meet the city’s traffic needs well into the 21st century.

Sioux Falls’ past intersects with its future along the 8th Street bridge.

“This bridge will be around for a really long time,” City of Sioux Falls Civil Engineer Dena Knutson said.

The bridge has already been around a long time. Built back in 1912, it was a vital link spanning the Big Sioux River. Now it’s discovered a fountain of youth as it spans the water through a makeover that replaced its once-crumbling concrete.

“So then, we patched-up the concrete, we put a membrane water sealant on top of the arches to prevent that penetration from salt and waters that come through the deck and then put new, fresh, granular fill back in and paved the concrete surface,” Knutson said.

Engineers say the bridge has always been structurally sound. The city saved almost $10 million rehabbing the bridge, instead of tearing it down and building a new one. But crews weren’t sure what kind of secrets the bridge might reveal once the project started. As it turns out, they were pleasantly surprised by what they discovered underneath.

“We don’t know the condition of the arches are until we remove the surfacing and get to the top and look at them, and those were in great shape. Those were in a lot better shape than we were anticipating,” Project Inspector Tanner Odegaard said.

A dry construction season lowered the river levels, helping keep the project on schedule and providing crews with easier access to the site.

“We had causeways so we could put in so that we could get to different spans of the bridge, and yeah, we could drive trucks across the Big Sioux River to one end to the other,” Knutson said.

A new plaque is going up as well, which explains the history of the 8th Street bridge. The history behind this bridge also impacted the way construction crews could rehab this landmark.

“We were required to restore it back to what would look like historic. So, we had to keep the railing very similar to what it was, we couldn’t add anything that would make it not look historic, basically,” Knutson said.

Drivers are glad the barricades are down and that the bridge is back open to traffic.

“I’m very happy that it’s finally open, it’s been a long, long time,” Paula Rogers of Sioux Falls said.

The 8th Street bridge was an engineering marvel back in its day, built with the foresight to anticipate higher traffic volumes through the decades. The remodeled version will add another 75 years to its already lengthy lifespan.

“This bridge was really built to last a long time. It’s a lot wider than a normal structure is built. And so it was really built for the future and traffic needs. It’s done a great job,” Odegaard said.

You’ll still see construction crews working underneath the bridge. They expect to complete landscaping the bike path on the east-side of the river in the spring.

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