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Bridge work piles up for Davison County road crews

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The bridge along 406th Avenue, also called Red Arrow Road, between 259th and 260th streets was wiped out by the flooding last week southwest of Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The four Davison County bridges that remain out of service due to flood damage from 2019 are top priority to get fixed. But even if the county is lucky, officials said Tuesday, just one of those will be finished by the end of 2020.

Davison County Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg presented the latest plan of action on the county’s bridge repairs and upgrades to the Davison County Commission on Tuesday.

The No. 1 priority for Weinberg is the 406th Avenue (or Red Arrow Road) bridge over Enemy Creek between 259th and 260th Avenues, located about 8 miles southwest of Mitchell. The project is awaiting environmental review and a sign-off from the South Dakota Department of Transportation, with hopes of having a contractor on board by the end of July or August, Weinberg said.

If that doesn’t happen, the project will be bid in the fall, but construction wouldn’t begin until spring 2021. The total cost is $466,500, with the county expecting to pay 25 percent of that with the assistance of federal funds, or $116,625.

That project is the furthest along of the four bridges over Enemy Creek or its tributaries that were destroyed last fall by flooding, just part of the extensive rainfall in South Dakota’s wettest calendar year on record. Entire bridges, including along 397th Avenue south of Mount Vernon, were washed away or had major damage to the point of needing complete repair.

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In all, six bridges (the four over Enemy Creek and two more over Firesteel Creek) have suffered flood damage or have South Dakota Bridge Improvement Grant funding, with an estimated total cost of $5.76 million, and the county’s cost-share amount would be $1.22 million. For perspective, Weinberg said the county’s intended budget line for all of 2021’s bridge work was $1.2 million. The plan was produced by Weinberg and engineer Chris Brozik, of Civil Design Inc., based in Brookings.

“People need to understand that it’s going to take years to get caught up,” Weinberg said.

Federal Emergency Management Administration funds are being targeted for the repairs needed on 411th Avenue, where a likely 105-foot single-span girder structure will replace the destroyed bridge, an estimated $1 million repair. Civil Design is expected to do structure design work this year on the project, but FEMA generally requires an 18-month window to make repairs after an emergency declaration. Weinberg said they’re hoping to get an extension, because two winter seasons in that period crunch the ability to get the bridge designed and built.

The 397th project is a box culvert project in which Davison County is pursuing BIG funding, but Weinberg said the fastest that work could take place is likely 2022. Civil Design is also doing design work on the 401st Avenue bridge over Enemy Creek, which will be an 85-foot bridge. The two Firesteel projects — on 394th Avenue and 401st Avenue — are the most expensive of the six projects listed, with each at least $1.4 million in total cost. Weinberg said the county will pursue renewing its BIG funding again to have them “shelf-ready,” or ready for a construction contract, at the end of 2021.

Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode, who is the primary board representative for rural Davison County, said she has received numerous calls from concerned farmers. All four bridges that are currently out are on north-south roads.

“They’re right to be concerned. What are they going to do at harvest? We’re going to have to push them onto some township roads,” Bode said. “And township roads, quite frankly, are in terrible shape.”

Those north-south closures do not include the bridge on 397th Avenue over Interstate 90 at the Mount Vernon exit which is currently not available due to construction. Bode said talks need to be held with state leaders so they understand the predicament.

“We’ve got people that have hay and feed and farm needs,” Bode said. “We need to go to their table with our documentation and show them that maybe you won’t support us on this but you need to look at this from a fairness standpoint. There are unintended consequences.”

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The bridge repairs have made Weinberg’s five-year county road plan “totally shot,” he said. The county created its master transportation plan at the end of 2014 for the next 20 years, and Bode said the county has done a good job on its road work in rural areas, but the workload of the county’s 88 bridges and maintenance has become more stressed with last year’s weather.

“Bridges, we can’t hang our hat on,” she said.

County buildings to officially re-open Wednesday

Davison County officially decided to fully re-open its public buildings in the face of COVID-19 at the commission’s meeting on Tuesday.

County offices have operated in-person by appointment since March 19 due to the virus and county officials indicated they’d like to continue to have customers call ahead. But starting Wednesday, offices in the courthouse and at other county sites will be open to walk-in customers.

There was some concern from Treasurer David Beintema about how foot traffic will be handled in the courthouse foyer. Markings on the floor would indicate social distancing guidelines, but Bode said the county won’t mandate that customers or taxpayers follow social distancing while in the courthouse. As far as installing glass barriers, Bode also encouraged each individual office to consider what precautions they want to take to protect themselves.

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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