City and DOT Officials Discuss Fate of Meridian Bridge | Community
The Meridian Bridge over the Missouri River continues to serve Yankton after nearly a century, but the structure could be demolished when its life ends in 2036.
The two-story bridge, built with private funds, was opened to traffic in 1924, and the structure connecting South Dakota and Nebraska has shown signs of deterioration in its later years.
In 2008, the replacement Discovery Bridge was opened to the west for traffic. The Meridian Bridge was closed to vehicular traffic and, after transformation work, was reopened to pedestrian traffic in 2011.
At a recent meeting in Yankton, the South Dakota Transportation Commission learned more about future plans for the Meridian Bridge.
The converted bridge has an estimated lifespan of 25 years, but that number could change depending on several factors, said Craig Smith, Mitchell area engineer, South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT).
“Under the current agreement, the City of Yankton took over ownership of the Meridian Bridge when it was closed to vehicles and turned into a hiking and biking trail,” he said. “The city has also taken over responsibility for maintenance, which includes underwater inspection. “
The deal includes a plan for when the bridge will no longer remain in use, Smith said.
“When the city deems that it is no longer possible for them to maintain the bridge based on its condition, ownership reverts to DOT,” he said. “We are responsible for the demolition of the structure.
The state received $ 2.81 million from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for the demolition of the bridge, and the fund’s value increased to $ 3.236 million, Smith said. Money can only be used for the demolition of the structure.
“When the city decides it can no longer maintain the bridge, when the day comes, we work together on what is needed for the demolition and award of the contract,” said Smith. “It will hopefully be years later.”
Transportation Commissioner Donald Roby of Watertown asked what the planned demolition costs were and if current funds would cover those costs.
As a way to estimate the cost, Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt used the estimated $ 4 million to demolish the 1,700-foot Missouri River Bridge between Pierre and Fort Pierre.
However, Meridian Bridge could have different costs, Jundt said. Based on the $ 4 million estimate for Stone’s demolition, the state would need additional funding for Yankton beyond the FWHA’s current $ 3.2 million, he said. declared.
“It goes back to the structure and the environmental part of it,” he said. “Later, how will this be handled? What will it take to physically tear down (the meridian bridge) and have the ideal demolition? “
Yankton’s story is tied to the Meridian Bridge, according to Dave Mingo, director of community development for the city of Yankton.
“If you walk around the community, you see private companies, public entities and all the different types of places that use the bridge as a trademark,” he said. “It really serves as a defining image for our community. “
The Yankton area was thrilled the Meridian Bridge stayed alive with its new use, Mingo said. “The conversion of the Meridian Bridge really means a lot to the community,” he said, noting the major current use by people of all ages and from a large area.
State and city authorities are carrying out the necessary maintenance to keep the bridge safe and hopefully extend its life, Mingo said.
“When he was rehabilitated in 2011, the 25 years (for his life expectancy) seemed so far away. But we are already 10 years away, ”he said. “We are very satisfied with its functionality and the inspections that take place regularly. The state coordinated the inspections, and we appreciate that. “
The converted Meridian Bridge has improved the quality of life in the area, according to Mike Healy, chair of the Yankton Thrive organization’s transportation committee.
With its two-story feature, Meridian Bridge offers walkers and cyclists a number of options depending on their level of fitness, Healy said, noting that he walks the bridge frequently.
The Meridian Bridge stopped taking vehicle traffic in October 2008, and a renovation project was leased in January 2010 for $ 4.8 million, Smith said. A few changes were necessary, bringing the total price to $ 5.658 million.
In April 2010, repair and replacement work began and the bridge reopened to foot and bicycle traffic, Smith said. In November 2011, the 3,029-foot structure reopened as the longest two-story walking trail connecting South Dakota and Nebraska, he added.
In 2015, the Meridian Bridge Plaza was added to the north end of the bridge, Smith said. The square includes a fountain, a paddling pool, benches, a green space and a walk on the river with sculptures. The “Music at the Meridian” series features a number of local concerts during the summer.
In addition, the Meridian Bridge provides direct access between a campground on the south end of the bridge and the southern district of downtown Yankton on the north end, Mingo said.
The Meridian Bridge has played a role in revitalizing the neighborhood, Mingo said.
“I think it’s a lot more than anyone could have imagined. The bridge has really helped the downtown district by involving public-private partnerships and investment in new businesses, ”he said.
“Downtown has become more of an entertainment district, with people coming more for experiences than in the past, when downtown was more of a retail sector. We still have these retail businesses to meet the needs of the people, but we are seeing new successes downtown that have been really good for the community.
Mingo anticipates that serious discussions about the future of the bridge will begin in 10 years. In the meantime, city and state officials will continue the maintenance which will hopefully extend the bridge well beyond 2036, he said.
“We hope the bridge will last for well over 25 years,” he said. “It’s our identity, and we want to see it here for a while.”
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