As it sits right now, there is only one way in and out of the Flandreau Indian School campus, but for many years, an alternative route was available for those looking to get to the north side of town. There is a good chance that Flandreau will get that route back thanks to the City Councilís decision last Monday to have Civil Design inspect the bridge.
The idea is to re-open the bridge to alternating, one lane traffic, regulated by a stop sign on each side, with some form of lightweight barriers that force the drivers to the east side of the bridge.
Due to some uncertain structural issues, the Crescent Street Bridge was shut down in 2009, but it was not because the bridge was inoperable.
There were concerns that the west side of the bridge had some weak points around the rails, and the city was told they could keep the bridge open, if they could guarantee that cars would stay on the east side of the bridge. The issue became, how do you guarantee that without adding additional dead weight to the already questionable west side in the form of concrete barriers.
So the bridge was closed and those concrete barriers were placed on the north and south ends to ensure nobody would pass.
Why open it now? Alderman Brad Bjerke believes it is at least worth looking in to. ďI feel for what it would cost us to re-open that, I think we should take a step to try. As opposed to letting it sit as is.Ē
That cost would be $1,500, but an 80% reimbursement from the South Dakota Department of Transportation would put the cities cost at just $300 for the inspection.
Civil Design will then have to report their findings to the Council at a regularly scheduled meeting, where the Alderman will determine whether to open up the roadway again or not.
Are there any other options? Well, yes, but none that seem to be as immediate and financially reasonable as this one.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education have been working with the city to get this project done for a while now and are willing to help financially, but it seems that if the city takes that route, it would take at least 10 years to raise the funds to rebuild the bridge.
The other option is through the State. Every government owned bridge, which this is, is on a list that determines when the bridge will be rebuilt or repaired. This seems like a real good option, but right now, the bridge is still 10 or 12 years away from seeing its name drawn.
So really, a $300 inspection, a few cones and a couple stop signs seem to be the most feasible and timely option for the city.
The council did raise a few concerns about the project. Although it is believed the bridge would cut down on the time it takes emergency responders to get to the north side via Highway 13, members of those crews say that is just not true.
ďThere isnít that much [difference], Iíve timed it with a stopwatch,Ē said Mayor Mark Bonrud who also works for the Moody County Ambulance Service.
Also, how do you prohibit oversized vehicles from traveling on the bridge? Depending on what Civil Design comes up with for their weight restrictions (currently the bridge is posted for 19 ton), they would prefer to keep the bridge to light car traffic and arenít even sure if a school bus or snow plow would safely travel across the bridge.
A lot of those questions will be answered after Civil Design completes their inspection, but until then, the people of Flandreau can still hold out hope that the bridge is getting a second chance.
The proposal by Civil Design was signed and returned in the middle of last week and it is not certain when they will be able to inspect the bridge and report their findings. The Council hopes to hear from them at either their February 4th or 19th meetings.