• Patch expected to cost more than $100K, but replacement would be $1.5M
BROOKINGS – A bridge crossing the Big Sioux River north of Bruce is down to one lane of traffic, and that lane has a pothole that is growing “by the day.”
A new bridge would cost $1.5 million, but federal dollars will pay that bill in 2017, if the bridge can be patched until then, the Brookings County Commission heard Tuesday.
Dennis Clark, Brookings County highway superintendent, asked commissioners for guidance Tuesday on whether he should ask Banner Associates to design a temporary fix for the bridge, which sits about 6 miles north of Bruce.
But that fix won’t come cheaply, either.
“If everything went right, you’d probably be looking at $100,000. But because of the smallness of the job and the location, we’re just afraid it’s going to creep up toward that $150,000. And until I get quotes back, I won’t have an answer,” he said.
Clark said he would need a special designation of funds from the commission to complete the short-term fix because the money is not in his budget. But, saving money by closing the bridge or leaving it as a one-lane route are not good options, he said.
“There’s a pothole developing on the east side of the bridge. That’s why I’m going out there twice a week and monitoring: I’ll climb underneath and see how much worse it’s getting. Because you just don’t know – one day, all of a sudden it’s gone, and then we have to close the lane off,” Clark said.
Fortunately, Brookings County applied several years ago for the bridge to be replaced by the federal bridge program; it is slotted to be done in 2017. In this program, the federal government pays 80 percent of the project and the county pays 20 percent.
There is one opportunity to repair it a year earlier, according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation (DOT): If the county applied for and received a Statewide Infrastructure Bank Loan, it could start now on the three-year process of having a new bridge designed and built, and have it completed by 2016.
The county would still be responsible for 20 percent of the costs, or about $300,000, and the state would be essentially reimbursed by the federal bridge program in 2017. Approval for the loan is on a case-by-case basis, DOT said.
Meanwhile, the bridge needs to be repaired. To use any federal money on a repair would yank the project out of line for replacement for a minimum of 10 years, so the county must foot the bill for repairs now or face paying the total cost of replacement itself.
Commissioners agreed this week that Clark should go ahead with applying for the state loan program, and with having a temporary fix designed.
“I feel like we need to go with your recommendation and get at it. We need to make this safe,” said Deanna Santema, commission chair.
“We can’t leave it one lane,” added commissioner Dennis Falken. “And, to take that money and then lose it on the bridge program and then, all of a sudden we’ve got a $1.5 million bridge that needs to be replaced now, then we’re really in trouble.”
Clark said he’s hoping to have it done yet this year, before winter weather would stop repairs. He’s afraid going through a full bidding process could slow things down, so he and the state’s attorney’s office will check into whether the repair could be deemed an emergency and the county could go directly to three local companies to solicit bids.
Contact Charis Prunty at email@example.com.