The state Department of Transportation, along with representatives from Pierre and Fort Pierre, has begun the decade-long process of replacing the venerable bridge connecting the two cities.
The DOT began accepting statements of interest from engineering teams in November to conduct a location-and-type study to replace the 52-year-old bridge spanning the Missouri River that serves U.S. Highways 14 and 83, along with state Highway 34.
Kevin Goeden, chief bridge engineer for the department, said a committee will now winnow the statements of interests down to three candidates and then select a final engineering consultant to move to the next phase.
The committee will include DOT staff, such as Goeden, as well as personnel from the involved communities, such as Pierre City Commissioner Leon Schochenmaier and Fort Pierre Director of Public Works Brad Lawrence.
Goeden said the department expects the committee to have a consultant selected by spring. That consultant will then start the 12- to 18-month process of examining where the new bridge should be located, its design and any environmental impacts.
Once the study is complete, there will be public meetings and a community advisement panel to gather input before the project proceeds, he said.
The new bridge is expected to be completed between 2020 and 2025.
Goeden said that, while the bridge is still safe, after some repair work two or three years ago the department determined it only had roughly 15 more years before needing to be replaced.
Lawrence, from Fort Pierre, said the bridge, like any piece of infrastructure, is simply reaching the end of its lifespan. With a steel-girder bridge, repeated loads can eventually lead to cracking of those girders from fatigue, he said.
It’s not surprising the bridge needs to be replaced given the heavily trafficked area, Lawrence said.
“It’s one of the highest traveled inter-city connectors in the state,” he said.
Lawrence said the new bridge could incorporate safety improvements, such as a design that would keep snow from piling up.
He said the biggest improvement he would like to see is better pedestrian access. The bridge wasn’t originally designed for pedestrian use and the current narrow walkway was added during a refit in the 1980s, he said.
“It would be nice to have better, wider pedestrian access,” Lawrence said.
Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill, who will serve on the community advisement panel, said her committee’s goal is to mesh what is structurally sound with what is aesthetically pleasing.
“This is an entry point to our community. What will it look like?” she said.
Gill said if the bridge will move from its current location, the committee will have to think how that will affect riverside parks, residences and nearby businesses. It’s an important consideration because a community only builds a bridge like this once in a generation, she said.
“You don’t want an eyesore,” Gill said.