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Hanson County eyes summer roadwork, potential future improvements

Bridge work on wishlist for 2023-2026

012022.N.DR.HANSONBRIDGES1.JPG
Hanson County is preparing for a slate of highway improvements this summer. The county is also considering a larger, multi-year improvement project that, should funding be secured, could include possible repair work on county bridges, like this one located near the intersection of 416th Avenue and 258th Street.
Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic
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ALEXANDRIA, S.D. — Hanson County officials are looking ahead to a season of road work this summer and also are eyeing more construction over the next several years if funding options come through.

Justin Friese, highway superintendent for Hanson County, said work is already scheduled for this year, but the recently developed five-year road and bridge program is still in the early planning stages as it waits on potential future funding.

“The five-year guide is just to make sure we can get our funding from the state,” Friese said. “It’s just a guideline.”

Summer construction work is a tradition in South Dakota, and counties from border to border work every year to ensure safe roads and sturdy bridges are there to serve commuters, farmers and commercial vehicles going about their daily lives. Hanson County will kick off another round of that this year.

Friese said the picture is clear only for what is planned for this year and not beyond, and even what gets done will be subject to supply chain issues and South Dakota weather, which has been known to stymie county and state-level road construction projects for years at a time. How the weather cooperates this summer will determine how much of the immediate plan is accomplished.

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The work will include 2.5 miles of overlay north of Alexandria and about 10 miles of chip sealing south of the community. The county would also like to tackle laying approximately 32 miles of gravel throughout the county. It will be plenty of work for county workers, Friese said, but the main unknown factor is, of course, the weather.

Bridges by Erik Kaufman on Scribd

“If we can get all that done. It’s not a guarantee depending on the weather,” Friese said.

Friese said he did not expect much disruption of traffic for the upcoming schedule of projects.

Further down the road, the county has a five-year road and bridge program that serves as a wishlist for to-do projects. The plan is not yet set in stone as the county is still securing funding for those future projects, but the proposed work includes more gravel work, chip sealing, paving and overlay on county roads.

In addition, the county is looking at doing work on six bridges. The scope of the work to be done on those bridges is still in flux, Friese said, but he said the bridges vary in age, with some dating back to the 1970s and 1980s. Many bridges in South Dakota are due for overhauls, according to a report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

Friese said the bridges are in relatively good shape for their age.

“I’d say they’re probably in fair condition. And some of that depends on the structure,” Friese said.

The complete cost of the five-year road and bridge program has yet to be determined, Friese said, but some funding was earmarked when voters in Hanson County in September passed a 10-year, $500,000 per year opt-out which will help support any potential projects. The opt-out passed by a vote of 183 to 158 and takes effect beginning with taxes payable on Jan. 1 of 2022.

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With weather a constant unknown, and supply chain issues causing extreme fluctuations in material costs, it’s too early to put a price tag or timeline on the proposed work. The status of proposed work from 2023 to 2026 should become clearer after this season, Fiese said.

For now, he said his team will focus on the work to be done and wait to see what develops on future plans.

“Right now we can’t tell because things really fluctuate so badly,” Friese said.

Related Topics: TRAFFIC AND CONSTRUCTION
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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