The first discussions of how to build a new bridge across the Missouri River between Pierre and Fort Pierre have started, kicking off an 11-year process of planning, discussing, designing and ultimately constructing the structure.

Representatives of Minnesota-based engineering company URS met Tuesday with engineers from the state Department of Transportation and later with representatives of the Pierre and Fort Pierre government, business and recreation community to discuss preliminary ideas and concerns for the new bridge.

URS will be conducting a study that will last until the end of next year looking at the various options for the new bridge including type, location, width, environmental factors and aesthetics, while collecting public input.

Construction on the new bridge is not slated to start until 2023. It is scheduled to open to traffic in 2025.

URS’s emphasis is on constructing an aesthetically pleasing, 100-year structure for the vital crossing between the two cities. There is a good chance there will be some “modest relocation” of the bridge, either to the north of south, which will have an impact on adjoining streets, city green space and pedestrian trails, according to Greg Brown, the project manager with URS.

The study limits run between Yellowstone Street in Fort Pierre and Poplar Avenue in Pierre, and from the railroad bridge spanning the river to just south of the current bridge.

URS will be working with a technical committee, made up of DOT employees and other experts, to look at functionality aspects, as well as a citizen advisory committee to make sure the structure fits with the community.

Some concerns brought up by the citizen advisory committee Monday were to make sure the new bridge would coexist with Fort Pierre’s planned Riverwalk Landing marina and revived plans to build a new public pool in Pierre.

There will also be three public meetings within the next year and a half, with the first being held in late October or early November.

For the design, Bradley Touchstone, a bridge architect with URS, said he’s a believer in the low cost or no cost aesthetics philosophy of building, opting to carefully select the textures and colors of the raw materials to be used on the bridge rather than adding expensive distinctive features.

That not only keeps costs, both initial and maintenance, down but also creates a structure that feels like it naturally belongs in the community.

“We want to make sure that, once again, tastefulness rules the day,” Touchstone said.

Brown said by the beginning of 2014 he expects to have a fairly good idea of what the community wants for the bridge, although there will be two or three options still in consideration at the end of the study.

The idea now is to mix ideas together and see what comes out of that, instead of just having engineers build a utilitarian structure as fast as possible.

“It’s an approach we use today they didn’t use in the 50s and 60s,” he said.

However, Brown said URS doesn’t want to be too definitive in its decisions for now. The job is unique in that usually construction would begin in a couple years and not in a decade.

“We don’t want to assume we know what’s going to happen in 10 years,” he said.

Steve Gramm, who is the DOT’s project manager for the new bridge, said the reason the new bridge will be so long in the planning is because the bridge will cost more than the typical project and 2025 is when the financial forecasts say funds will be available.

However, the normal project development cycle for DOT projects is eight years, so this is only a few years beyond the ordinary, he said.

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