The reopening of 397th Avenue south of Mount Vernon took another step forward this week.

The Davison County Commission opened and accepted bids Tuesday in the reconstruction of a key bridge that was washed away in the 2019 flooding. The board voted to move forward with Mitchell-based Menning Backhoe to install a new culvert along 397th Avenue at a bid price of $451,121.

The total cost has previously been estimated at between $470,000 and $505,000.

Davison County Highway Superintendent Rusty Weinberg said he was impressed to have six bidders on the project and using a precast concrete structure helped get more bidders involved, rather than a cast-in-place method, which would be more expensive and specialized.

“Precast was our best chance to get it done this year,” Weinberg said. “Not every contractor is full yet for the year, so we had a good amount of interest.”

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The bridge has been closed for the last 16 months, with water pressure blowing away the previous structure and scattering debris. Engineer Chris Brozik, of Civil Design Inc., based in Brookings, said there will also be some channel cleanout done during reconstruction after bits of the previous bridge were blown 200 to 300 feet down the channel during the 2019 flooding.

The road is currently closed between 258th and 259th streets, about 5 miles south of Mount Vernon and impacting a key north-south route in the county. Combined with last year’s reconstruction of the Mount Vernon interchange at Interstate 90 where north-south travel over I-90 was closed, some residents in the southwest part of the county had a 20-plus-mile detour to reach Mount Vernon.

It also was good news for the commissioners’ $33,343 gamble to get the project done in 2021. In October 2020, the commissioners voted to move ahead with design work over the winter, which sped up the timeline for the work. If not for the early design, the project would likely not be finished until November.

On Tuesday, Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said they believe the optimistic opening timeline of August is still on track. Bode said last year having the project done in August is key for farmers bringing grain and livestock to market and is also a critical school bus route.