By Billy Stitz
After being shut down for 10 years, the Flandreau City Council has decided to re-open the Crescent Street Bridge to double lane traffic starting as soon as repairs are finished.
The Council met last Monday and had their third discussion on the bridge’s status. In January, they had decided to spend $300 to get the bridge inspected because members of the Indian School had recently had increased interest in opening the roadway.
After the city had it inspected, Nathan Lund of CDI came to a council meeting in late February to discuss their findings.
They had found and offered three options to the city council. The first of which, is open the bridge to one lane traffic at a higher ton rate. The second option was open the bridge to two-lane traffic at six ton. The final option, keep the bridge closed.
Lund informed the council that there would need to be some minor repairs done to the bridge before it should be opened. Those repairs included adding rip-rap to the banking, removing a few stumps and trees, place proper signage around the bridge and fill in a void in the north abutment.
The engineering company is the same company that inspected the bridge back in 2003 and 2007, stating that there hasn’t been any substantial advancement in the issues with the bridge and it is safe to be opened with those few minor repairs.
So why was the bridge closed in the first place. No one on the board is 100% certain as to why, other than they got an opinion from a local engineer, who isn’t a licensed bridge inspector, and they decided at that time to close it.
Why don’t they just rebuild the bridge? Well according to Lund, the bridge would cost about 1.4 million dollars to replace now, or 1.7 million dollars to replace it in five years.
After Alderman Brad Bjerke did some research, they discovered that those minor repairs would cost an estimated $2,300.
“What we are doing with that $2,300 is fixing 10 years of non-maintenance,” Bjerke said. “I feel for what it would cost us to re-open that, I think we should try. As opposed to letting it sit as is,” he added.
But before the council voted on the idea, they had some opinions. “If there is another dime spent down there I say close it. I want that understood,” Alderman Ron Smith said.
Most of their opinions come simply because they don’t see a great need to open the 78-year-old bridge since there is a much newer bridge just four blocks away.
“My phone isn’t ringing off the wall. I haven’t received one phone call about it since we closed it,” Alderman Dan Sutton said. “I think the city has adapted to going the other way,” he added.
There was also a lot of concern with vehicles over the posted tonnage traveling across the bridge. The consensus was that as long as they have proper signage, they are not liable for any damage done to the bridge or vehicle. Their hope is that larger vehicles understand that the limit is set for a reason and anyone traveling over that limit risks receiving a ticket or worst-case scenario, the bridge falls in as they drive over it.
But on the recommendation, which he was asked to give, from City Administrator Don Witman, the council passed the opening of the bridge to two-lane traffic at a six ton limit, with a condition that the bridge be inspected every February to ensure its safety. The bridge will open as soon as the repairs are finished, the council believes that will be in the next 30 days or so.