Bridge fixes could cost $3M
Closure near Baltic causes safety concerns among residents
September 26. 2012 1:17PM
Rusting girders, a deteriorating surface and high water levels on the Big Sioux River over the years all contributed to the closure of a Minnehaha County bridge west of Baltic two weeks ago.
During a routine inspection of the Highway 114 bridge Sept. 11, crews noticed significant flaws in the structure causing the Minnehaha County Highway Department to immediately shut down the bridge, which typically sees 1,500 vehicles pass over it every day.
The bridge is along a key transportation route for commuters and Baltic residents as the main corridor connecting the town to Interstate 29 as well as Highway 115.
At the time of the closure, county highway Superintendent D.J. Buthe said it could be up to two years before the bridge is re-opened. However, Buthe said last Wednesday a meeting would be held to determine if anything can be done to open the bridge sooner.
“We’re still inspecting the piers to see if they can be salvaged,” he said.
If the piers can be used in the construction of the new bridge, traffic could begin flowing again on Highway 114 through Baltic before October 2013, Buthe said Wednesday during an open house at the Baltic School to field questions and address concerns about the closure.
Buthe, other highway department staff and County Commissioners Jeff Barth and Dick Kelly were on hand for the forum.
County commissioners have said the county was set to spend $5 million during the next two years to fix and replace bridges throughout the county. But Buthe said the cost of replacing the 57-year-old bridge near Baltic could cost in excess of $3 million alone.
“This is probably one of, if not the most, expensive bridges that we have on our system,” he said.
During the inspection earlier this month, significant cracks in the girders, also known as the main structural beams, were discovered, some as long as 22 inches, Buthe said. Some spots completely have rusted away, causing holes in the girders, all adding to the risk of a bridge collapse if it remained open to traffic.
Flooding over the years, that pushed water levels above the girders at times, also contributed to the deterioration.
The concrete surface of the bridge - the deck - also is failing, Buthe said. The deck flaws are caused by rusting rebar and has worsened to the point that water seeps through to the underside, he said.
Baltic resident Jane Ackerman was one of the many frustrated to attend Wednesday’s open house and said the bridge closure not only causes her headaches when planning trips to Sioux Falls - motorists are forced to use a 12-mile detour - but worry as well.
“What if there’s a fire on that side of the bridge?” she asked. “It’s not only inconvenient, it’s a safety thing.”
Commissioner Barth said officials met with Dell Rapids fire personnel to discuss emergency planning in the event that a fire in Baltic Fire’s jurisdiction could be responded to faster from crews from the city five-miles north.
“This is a huge priority for me and I think my fellow commissioners share the concern,” Barth said.