Bridges of Fall River County on 5-year plan

By Cathy Nelson

HOT SPRINGS - The replacement for the old Chilson bridge is part of the county’s five-year plan and is expected to be bid in 2020. That bridge and other projects listed on the five-year plan were presented to the county commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 4 by county Highway Superintendent Randy Seiler.

“The bridge was supposed to be bid in 2018,” Seiler said. The controversy over whether to replace the bridge or not delayed action on the bridge, he said. “The county will pay 20 percent of the cost, and state and federal will pay 80 percent,” he said.

The bridge that has been an ongoing hot topic for the commission this year is located on Old Highway 18 between Edgemont and Hot Springs and spans the Mickelson Trail. The official location is 4 E & 8 N of Edgemont. The old bridge, known as the Chilson Bridge, was closed last year due to safety concerns caused by its disrepair. 

When Seiler presented the five-year plan last Tuesday he gave the following estimated costs for replacing the bridge. The lowest estimate is $1,831,546, which would include a bridge 178 feet long with two spans. A double span bridge with the same length could cost $2,252,081, and a triple span bridge is estimated to cost $2,170,300.

The commissioners will finalize and take action on the five-year plan at their meeting on October 2.

The state funding for bridges is part of the State of South Dakota’s Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG). BIG was created by the state legislature in 2015. It states that in order to be eligible for a BIG grant, a county must impose a wheel tax. 

In addition, a county must have a County Highway and Bridge Improvement Plan.

The plan should detail proposed county highway and bridge improvement projects in the county for the next five years. 

“The wheel tax makes it possible for us to get state funding for the bridges,” Seiler said. “We have a wheel tax of $2, while some other counties have a $5 wheel tax, which is the maximum.” He said that some of the larger counties in the state are able to pay the entire cost for bridges from the wheel tax they collect.

Also, when a county receives a BIG grant, the county is required to create a right-of-way, adjust the utilities, do the surfacing and fencing, and erect signs. Sometimes the township offers to carry out those requirements.

Another bridge on the list for construction is located 17 miles north of Edgemont in Argentine Township. The county applied for a grant to do the engineering and now will apply to the state for the construction costs. If granted, the state will pay 80 percent and the county will pay 20 percent. The estimated cost for that bridge is $1,600,000.  

A bridge in Burdock Township is also on the list. It is located at 1.1 W & 0.3 south of Burdock. The county will apply for a BIG grant for replacement with plans for the design to begin in 2019. Also listed in the plan is some bridge and road work in the Provo to Igloo area in 2021.

“We have 36 bridges in the county,” Seiler said. “Most of our bridges are in pretty good shape.” 

The county is required to have the bridges inspected every two years, then the engineering firm that did the inspection creates a huge binder filled with photos of the bridges and descriptions of their condition. 

Also, on the county’s five-year plan is graveling county roads and some asphalt surface treatment. “We have 700 miles of road in the county,” Seiler said. 

Currently, the county is working on mowing all the roads. “We’ve been mowing for a month and half steady,” Seiler said. “We’ll still be mowing for another month.” They started mowing roads in late June, and because of the wet year, extra mowing has been required.

When the mowing is done, snow plowing will come next for the county. “We plow the bus routes, the mail routes and the main roads first,” Seiler said. Some county residents want their roads plowed first, Seiler said, but with 700 miles of road in the county, we try to get the main roads done first.

After 18 years as Fall River County’s highway superintendent, Seiler will continue to set priorities in an effort to keep the roads and bridges in good repair for county residents, he said.

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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