The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded a $13 million federal grant to support a bridge replacement project for the Missouri River Bridge, which connects Pierre and Ft. Pierre. The grant was awarded under the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program.
The current schedule projections are to let out bids for the bridge construction project in the fall of 2020. Depending on the contractor and their scheduling, construction could begin in the winter of 2020, but more likely in the spring of 2021. “We are hoping that it is done and open to traffic in 2023,” said Steve Johnson, chief bridge engineer with the South Dakota Department of Transportation. Johnson said Sam Gilkerson is the manager for the design phase of the project, and, once the bid is let, then the DOT Pierre Area engineer in charge will be Dean VanDewiele.
“We were fortunate to get the grant funding. It’s good news,” Johnson said. The SD DOT has an engineer’s cost estimate, which is used in the bidding process. “The entire project is estimated to be just over $45 million, adjusting not only for inflation over the years (since project initiation in 2013) but also as we get further along we are finalizing the exact figures.”
“Our goal is to build a structure that would last 100 years. The current bridge is at the end of its service span,” said Johnson, “Being pretty straight forward, it’s a pretty big project for South Dakota, but it will be good to get it done. We are hoping for a large number of bidders.” Johnson added that with the large size of the project, it may gather the interest of contractors from out of state.”
“It will be about 10 feet clear,” said Johnson, referring to the new bridge’s location relative to the current bridge. “The new bridge is going to be built just north of the existing structure. We will maintain traffic on the current structure as we build the new one. There will be a bit of realignment to the highways, but really close.”
First discussions of building a new bridge across the Missouri River between Pierre and Fort Pierre began in 2013. “We inspect all bridges on a regular basis, to determine if we need to rehabilitate them. At that time, in 2013, is when we decided that continued repair just wasn’t feasible,” said Johnson.
Representatives of URS, a Minnesota-based engineering company, met in 2013 with engineers from the state Department of Transportation and later with the Pierre and Fort Pierre governments, and with local business and recreation leaders. They discussed preliminary ideas and concerns for the new bridge. Even various locations for the new bridge were discussed; with one possible location being between Yellowstone Street in Fort Pierre and Poplar Avenue in Pierre, and another being from the railroad bridge spanning the river to just south of the current bridge. URS put forth a low-cost aesthetics philosophy of building, using selected textures and colors of the raw materials to be used on the bridge, rather than adding expensive aesthetic features. This would keep down initial costs and future maintenance costs.
In 2013, Steve Gramm, the planning manager with the South Dakota Department of Transportation for the new bridge said the reason the new bridge would be so long in the planning was because the bridge would cost more than the typical project, and the financial forecasts said funds would be available several years down the road. The normal project development cycle for DOT projects is eight years, so this bridge project was only a few years beyond the ordinary, Gramm said in 2013.
According to ongoing public safety interests, crews again inspected the bridge in July 2018. SD DOT inspectors used a monstrous cherry-picker-like “snooper truck” to lower themselves over the side of the bridge and lift them up to the underside to give the bridge its annual once-over.
This type of inspection gives bridges a rating on a 100-point sufficiency scale. In the National Bridge Inventory from 2017, the Missouri River bridge in Pierre had a 51.8 sufficiency rating. Such ratings and updated inspections only reaffirmed the need to replace the bridge.
The basic architectural style of the bridge can be described as “neo-Federalist.”
The design of the bridge will be enhanced by some elements that the cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre have agreed to pay for, splitting the cost 50-50.
In 2018, a total estimated cost of $360,000 was to be split by the two cities. The 50-50 cost share was controversial in Fort Pierre, because of the difference in the size of the two cities. Approval of the final set of shared enhancements passed on the Fort Pierre side with a 3-3 tie vote on the city council, which was broken by Fort Pierre’s mayor, Gloria Hanson. In addition to those bridge elements, both cities are also planning for park/plaza improvements, to be constructed on their respective sides of the bridge near the abutments.
A belvedere is included in the plans: A belvedere is a bump-out along the walk path running along the ends of the bridge where people can stand or sit and look out over the river. Costs would vary according to how many and how large the belvederes are on each cities’ side of the bridge.
Architectural lighting, different from lighting the way for traffic or for pedestrians and cyclists, is meant to illuminate the bridge itself. Each city will decide for itself what kind of plaza, if any, to build at the bridge abutments, and each city would pay for the plaza on its own side of the river.
According to Brooke Bohnenkamp, communications manager for Pierre, the city of Pierre and city of Fort Pierre are still in agreement on the Missouri River Bridge project.
The two towns will still split the specific bridge enhancements through a 50/50 cost share. These shared enhancements include decorative roadway lighting, belvederes, bridge pier floodlights, belvedere accent lights, and abutment plaza lights.
The current Missouri River Bridge between Fort Pierre and Pierre was built in 1960. A part of Highway U.S. 14, the bridge type is steel girder with a concrete deck. Standing 30 above average water level, it is 1,659 feet long. Its 56 feet width includes four road lanes, a center divider, and a sidewalk on each side.
“The greatest part of this journey is the people,” said Scott Hite. “So many don’t really know how great they are. People see the sign on my bicycle, look it up on their phones, turn around, and give money for the program.”
The program is the WaitOne crisis hotline, run by Hite to help stop people who are contemplating committing violence with firearms.
“I tried to start the hotline in 2015 and didn’t follow through. Each shooting since then made me ask myself if I should renew my efforts. On May 4, I coincidentally ran into a YouTube video of the Colorado movie theater shooter. (James Holmes shot and killed 12 and injured 70 in a movie theater in 2014.) The shooter called a mental health hotline immediately prior to entering the theater, and there was no answer. Maybe he just needed some guidance, someone to talk to, to convince him to stop. Since that day, I’ve been determined to provide a nationwide hotline for people contemplating and planning violence with firearms.”
After resting in Yankton for a while, he bicycled to Pierre. He is now pedaling to Bismarck, ND, then east to Fargo, ND. From there he plans to head to Lake Itasca, ND, and then will continue following the Mississippi River toward Michigan.
“I’m cycling across the country to raise awareness and fundraising for www.WaitOne.org, a nationwide hotline for people planning violence with firearms. I started May 22 in Michigan,” said Hite. He has with him not only “a satellite tracker that shows my progress in almost real time,” but also three cell phones to alleviate any possible reception problems.
“There was no hotline for people who wanted to commit violence using a firearm. I think it’s important for people who have a gun who want to use it to commit violence to reach out,” Hite said. After hearing about each of the reported shooting incidents over the years, Hite wonders, “Would that person have called?”
“I take a call, and try to get them in contact with someone more local, then follow up to do whatever else is possible,” Hite said. “This has no affiliation, and never will, about gun advocacy. It’s about looking for something that works. There’s got to be something more. People can reach out, and I get them help on a local level.”
Hite stresses that the calls are confidential. He does not try to get too much information, other than to get the caller in touch with someone more local to that caller. Hite is legally responsible, according to information he has gotten from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to report any potential situation that is too specific. Hite is trying to help people and stop situations. “Call me. No one is coming after your guns,” Hite said.
So far, Hite has pedaled 1,710 miles in 50 days. He has talked to countless people, slept in his sleeping bag in people’s backyards, or under the stars near cell towers. He has been getting the word out to people, people who may pass on the word, make posters for their schools, colleges, businesses, and who may otherwise help stop people who may be contemplating doing violence with firearms.
Gary Heintz and Carmen Woodward are excited about this year’s Dakota Western Heritage Festival, coming September 17 and 18 to the Expo Center in Fort Pierre.
For those who haven’t been to a previous festival, it’s a celebration of many things cowboy and western: Music, art, cowboy poetry, horses, cattle, the great outdoors, cookery, even a wagon train that travels from Fort Pierre out along the Bad River and back; also western skills like leatherwork; saddle-, hat-, and boot-making; creating ropes; silversmithing; quilts; cowboy church; cowboy grub and more. Basically, you have to experience it to get a handle on it.
Heintz and Woodward, who are ramrodding the event, visited with the Capital Journal recently to talk about what is coming up for this year’s festival, the eighth of its kind, and explain why they are excited about the possibilities for the popular event.
Both pointed out how the festival has grown annually, but this year’s two goals, Heintz especially noted, were to get more young people involved in appreciating their western and family heritage and to create more awareness of local history.
So how will the festival help accomplish such lofty goals?
To get more young people involved, “Miss V,” the Gypsy Cowgirl, a Wyoming musician/performer/luthier, and Bonnie Krogman, a well-known White River poet, have been presenting programs — including a poetry and music contest, to be judged at the September festival — in area schools. This included schools from Phillip to Highmore, from Gettysburg to White River, Woodward and Heintz noted.
Miss V, who the Wyoming Arts Council dubs a “trailblazing troubadour” is steeped in western history come to life. She’s been a ranch hand and wrangler, a leatherworker, and she makes her own instruments, a banjo and guitar. Her charismatic performances are sure to have left an impression.
Krogman, of Wood, has been assisting in classrooms and assemblies, encouraging writing and performing among grades 4- 12.
To promote local history awareness, the second goal, Kurt Mortenson and John Burkholder, are going to be sharing their families’ experiences homesteading at the turn of the 20th century west of Fort Pierre at the festival. Both men have photos, maps and the fascinating oral histories handed down by their family members to share their experiences of the open range cattle baron era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Woodward was also excited about this year’s wagon train, which looks to feature a lot of participants.
The results of both these efforts will show come September. And that — along with the wagon train trek — is what excited Heintz and Woodward.
The festival’s activities are free to the public.
In order to keep it that way, the Pierre Elks are sponsoring a benefit concert, for the Dakota Western Heritage Festival, on Wednesday, July 31, from 7 — 8:30 p.m., at the Ramkota, on 920 W. Sioux Ave., in Pierre. The concert aims to cover the non-profit festival’s expenses — paying for performers, exhibits, displays, motel accommodations, advertising, Expo rent, etc.
The concert features Plains Folk, local musicians with a strong following in central South Dakota, who have been involved with the festival. The concert is a free-will offering benefit that includes a raffle for a custom made quilt and other items. It is also billed as a warm-up for the September festival, Heintz noted.
For more information about the festival or the benefit concert, contact Heintz at 222-0079, Woodward at 280-8938 or email the firstname.lastname@example.org
Local singers can make their voices heard in the Dakota Star Talent Competition at the South Dakota State Fair.
The top winner in the adult division wins a cash prize of $1,000, the title of “2019 Dakota Star” and the chance to star in his/her own commercial promoting Dakota Star on KTTW Fox. The winner is also awarded a three-hour recording studio session with Cathouse Studio and the chance to perform on the NorthWestern Energy Freedom Stage during the 2020 South Dakota State Fair, as well as emceeing the 2020 Dakota Star talent competition.
New this year is the opportunity for duos and trios to compete.
There are two age divisions for Dakota Star – Junior (12 through 17 years) and Adult (18 years and older).
Applications for the 17th annual Dakota Star Talent Competition, sponsored by Dakotaland Federal Credit Union, are available online at www.sdstatefair.com and at the State Fair office. The deadline for entering is Monday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m.
Preliminary competition begins Friday, August 30, and ends Sunday, September 1. Dakota Star finals are Monday, Sept. 2. The talent competition is held on the NorthWestern Energy Freedom Stage.
Starting with a preview night on Wednesday, August 28, the 2019 South Dakota State Fair runs from Thursday, Aug. 29, through Monday, Sept. 2. This year’s theme is “There’s No Time Like Fair Time.” For more information, contact the Fair office at 800-529-0900 or visit www.sdstatefair.com.
Adam Renfroe, wanted in California in connection with a fatal shooting this month, was arrested Wednesday in Pierre at a home on East Dakota Avenue, according to Gary Bunt, supervisory deputy U.S. marshal for South Dakota in Sioux Falls.
Renfroe, 32, of Brentwood, California, in the East Bay area near San Francisco, was wanted in the July 12 shooting in Concord, California.
Police there say Renfroe and and Robert Brown, 40, of Bay Point, shot Daniel Schrader, 36, in the parking lot of a Motel 6.
Police were called to the scene July 12 by “reports of shots fired,” and found Schrader with gunshot wounds. He died at a hospital, according to the Contra Costa Herald online.
A search of a Bay Point home near San Francisco within hours turned up neither man and the all-points bulletin issued July 13 described the men as armed and dangerous and warned the public from approaching them.
The news release from Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Gary Bunt in his Sioux Falls office on Wednesday, July 24, did not say anything about Brown but said Renfroe “fled the state of California.”
Bunt said Renfroe was arrested by members of the U.S. Marshals Service and other officers at a residence on East Dakota Avenue on Wednesday morning.
He’s in jail in Pierre awaiting his initial appearance in state circuit court here and extradition proceedings to send him to California to face the state charges there, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Trevor Lumadue at the marshals service office in Pierre.
It all happened fast, in a “same-day turnaround,” for the Pierre law enforcement officers, Lumadue told the Capital Journal.
A call came in early Wednesday morning from a Southwest Task Force headed by the marshals service out of California. Pierre law enforcement agencies assisted the marshals service as Renfroe was arrested “without incident” in the 1300 block of East Dakota Avenue about 10 a.m., Lumadue said.
That’s between the campus of Avera St. Mary's and the offices of River Cities Public Transit.
No one else was arrested in the incident.
Renfroe was in Pierre because of a woman.
“He was traveling with a girlfriend and she has ties to South Dakota,” Lumadue said.
It happened fast Wednesday as a group of about 10 law officers, including marshals, sheriff’s deputies and police officers, worked together on the “two-fold arrest,” Lumadue said.
The woman traveling with Renfroe was spotted in the suspected vehicle at a gas station on Wells Avenue and stopped.
That led to Renfroe’s arrest at an apartment in the 1300 block of East Dakota about 10 a.m.
The woman was released and everyone involved in the arrest, including her and Renfroe, complied with law officers, Lumadue said.
Brown is still at large and thought to be in California, he said.
Renfroe is 6 feet tall, 220 pounds, according to a jail official. He is slated to appear on the extradition request in state court in Pierre on Thursday.
Pierre police and Hughes County sheriff’s deputies assisted in the arrest, which was part of the Pierre Area Fugitive Task Force, Bunt said.
Renfroe is wanted for a parole violation and murder, Bunt said.