With extra ‘hope cash’ from feds on the horizon, South Dakota’s transportation fee OKs changing 31 bridges

“We know we have a number of bridges in disrepair,” said Tammy Williams, SDDOT program manager, during a meeting of the South Dakota Transportation Commission Thursday, April 29th. But Williams told the commission that federal grants could be in excess of $ 30 million annually for the next four years.

When asked how reliable this funding could be, she replied, “However, we are programming for it … and we just hope.”

“Hope money,” interjected Commissioner Mike Vehleto laugh at.

The bridges of the state of South Dakota are more sobering, however.

A national trade group released a report Earlier this year, South Dakota was found to have the fourth worst rating of structurally weak bridges in the country.

And while the congress is debating duel infrastructure approaches – President Biden announces he plans to spend more than $ 2 trillion while Republicans of the Senate have proposed a reduced $ 500 billion plan – South Dakotans, who depend on federal dollars for bridge funding, listen.

State officials said that on Thursday deteriorated conditions are not largely found in the inventory of around 1,800 directly owned by the state.

“Our government structures are in pretty good shape,” SDDOT’s chief bridge engineer Steve Johnson told the commission.

However, conditions are becoming more precarious for the 3,900 buildings in counties or cities where the average bridge age (51 years) is seven years older than the national average (44). On Thursday, Williams said that 25% of that inventory is classified as “in poor condition” by the state.

“The county system came a little earlier,” Williams said, noting that roads and associated bridges were built from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, decades before the highway system on which many state structures rest. “Many of the local structures date from this time.”

But she said they are “making progress”.

Last year, a federal-local program funded the repair of 49 structures. On Thursday, the commission unanimously approved the approval of $ 21.5 million 31 Replacing structures – and remove another 11 – currently in the public inventory of the bridges and place them in the coming year Planning budget.

“It’s good business,” Williams commented.

The bridges, she said, were selected by a scoring system that awarded applicants points based on the condition of the bridge and its “impact on the user”. The bridges awarded include a number that crosses the various waterways, which state officials in certain areas of South Dakota have identified as a constant challenge.

“If you look at the east side of the state, you can actually see the major rivers that flow through South Dakota and the tributaries that flow into them,” noted Mike Behm, director of the planning and engineering division who provided the commission on Thursday with a structure condition report summarizing the conditions of the 5,700 public bridges in South Dakota that cover 82,000 miles of carriageway.

Of the 31 bridges to be replaced, four cross Wolf Creek in rural Hand County, while others include structures that span the Big Sioux and Miller Creek in Spearfish.