State Transportation Commission gives another $19 million to South Dakota local governments

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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state Transportation Commission decided Thursday that counties and municipalities in South Dakota should get about $19 million more than expected this year, thanks to what one official described as a gift from the federal government.

The state Department of Transportation meanwhile will keep more than $21 million from the same two pots of extra federal aid.

Mike Behm, the department’s director of planning and engineering, said South Dakota is receiving $20.7 million in additional federal aid for bridges. He said 8.7 percent of local and state bridge surfaces were in poor condition. That included 3 percent of the state system and 17 percent of the local system.

“Essentially we’ve been given a gift,” Behm told commissioners. They agreed with the department’s recommendation that counties and cities get $17.3 million of the bridge money on a pro-rata basis determined by the square feet of surface in poor condition.

Said Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist: “We’ve known for a long time the structure problem is on the local system.”

Bergquist said local governments that receive small amounts should have the freedom to use the money on their general road systems rather than for minor fixes on bridges.

Behm said South Dakota also is getting another $19.6 million of what’s known as surface transportation block grant funding. Counties and first-class municipalities that have populations of at least 5,000 would share nearly $1.7 million of it under the commission’s decision Thursday.

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