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State panel chose 17 bridges for local improvement grants

PIERRE -- The South Dakota Transportation Commission awarded $8 million for preserving, rehabilitating or replacing 17 county and city bridges Thursday. The bridge improvement grants require a local match of at least 20 percent, but many applican...

PIERRE - The South Dakota Transportation Commission awarded $8 million for preserving, rehabilitating or replacing 17 county and city bridges Thursday. The bridge improvement grants require a local match of at least 20 percent, but many applicants offered to contribute more.

"They're fighting for the money," Laurie Schultz said. She is administration programs manager for the state Department of Transportation.

The department has a multi-part scoring system for ranking the projects. Schultz said preservation is a priority over rehabilitation or replacement.

Doug Kinniburgh recommended nine bridges receive preservation grants and eight bridges get money for rehabilitation or replacement. He is an engineering supervisor in the department.

"I think it went fairly well," Kinniburgh said. "It's a great opportunity to get that work out on the street."

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The annual competition had an added twist this year: Each applicant provided a score for its requested project. Department officials, meanwhile, did the official scores.

"I'm surprised how well they did line up," commissioner Don Roby of Watertown said.

"It makes it easier for them to accept the results," said Kyle White of Rapid City. He is commission chairman.

Mike Vehle of Mitchell, as a state senator, led the years-long battle to win approval by the Legislature for the funding. Now he is a commission member. He recalled the fight.

"If there's no bridge it's ball game over," Vehle said. "I didn't want it to be political."

"I wanted a point system," he continued. "I'm really proud we're keeping the politics out of it."

"Great to see it working," White said.

At a glance

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Preservation money was awarded to Mitchell for the bridge on Sanborn Boulevard over state-owned railroad. $773,000 grant for $966,211 project.

Rehabilitation or replacement money was awarded to Parkston, Depot Street over Pony Creek. $321,600 grant for $643,158 project.

Source: South Dakota Department of Transportation.

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