March 4, 2020 9:15 AM, EST

S.D. Transportation Commission Announces $14 Million in Bridge Grants

Foster Street Bridge in Davison County, S.D.Foster Street Bridge in Davison County, S.D., by South Dakota Department of Transportation

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The South Dakota Transportation Commission recently awarded 27 grants totaling $14 million to local government agencies to support bridge preservation and replacement efforts.

The Transportation Commission, which advises the South Dakota Department of Transportation, consists of nine members who represent regions throughout the state. The grants were announced during a commission meeting Feb. 27.

Recipients have three years to use the grant and must provide a minimum of 20% in matching funds.

SDDOT’s Bridge Improvement Grants program was created in 2015 and is supported by SDDOT and funds generated by license plate fees. SDDOT received 41 applications requesting more than $29 million in project costs during this round of grants.

In order to receive consideration for a grant, counties must have a five-year plan for highway and bridge improvement and a wheel tax, which is a fee levied on vehicle owners that depends on the size of the vehicle.

Lawrence County, which toes the Wyoming border, received two grants that total $323,800 for replacement of two bridges that have deteriorated to the point that they require load restrictions and can’t support the weight of heavy freight trucks, according to Allan Bonnema, highway superintendent for Lawrence County.

Both replacement projects involve bridges that carry St. Onge Road, which forms a link between Interstate 90 and State Route 34. I-90 is the major east-west interstate running through South Dakota. SR 34 also runs east-west, staying north of I-90; the two routes meet briefly in Lawrence County.

The grant covers half the estimated project costs, as the county plans to match 50%. Bonnema explained the funding builds on federal grants the county has already directed to these replacement projects.

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Although St. Onge has a population of fewer than 400 people, Bonnema said St. Onge Road is important for haulers who come to the area for the gravel mine and the livestock barn. St. Onge Livestock holds cattle sales every Friday and sheep sales every Thursday.

“St. Onge is a small little town, but they have one of the largest sale barn markets, so there’s a lot of cattle trucks going in and out of there,” he said. “[The bridges] will be a very nice improvement once we get them reconstructed.”

Similarly, Butte County Commissioner Kim Richards said the county’s three grant awards will aid bridges that are important for the movement of agricultural goods such as cattle, hay and alfalfa. Butte County, immediately north of Lawrence County, received two grants for bridge replacements and one for preservation efforts.

The bridges due for replacement have aged past their usefulness, Richards said.

“This is huge for us,” Richards said. “These are our major farm-to-market roads. A big water event could damage them to the point where they may not be usable. This is a very important grant for us.”

Sioux Falls, the largest city, received four grants, the most awarded to any recipient.

Michell Knoll, a representative of the City of Sioux Falls’ Public Works Department, said the awards will support chip sealing on the decks of four bridges. One of the bridges passes over the Big Sioux River. The other three pass over railroad tracks.

“Any of the spalling or the dilapidated concrete that’s on the bridge deck will be repaired,” Knoll said. “A lot of the bridges in the area are beyond the preservation stage. We are fortunate that our bridges are in fairly good condition yet, so a preservation grant fits perfectly.”

Brookings County, which borders Minnesota, was allotted some $1.3 million to replace a bridge that carries 466th Avenue over the Big Sioux River. In its current condition, the bridge can accommodate a single unit vehicle weighing 21 tons or a combination vehicle weighing 36 tons.

“As this is a major corridor within Brookings County, the newly designed bridge will be designed to manage today’s expectations of the trucking industry,” said Brian Gustad, highway superintendent for Brookings County.

The next batch of grant applications is due Aug. 1.

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