On Aug. 28, the North Dakota Department of Transportation sent a letter to the City of Dickinson regarding the condition of the State Avenue Heart River Bridge (Bridge No. DKSN12) following a recent inspection of the bridge.

The city has until Nov. 17 to respond to the NDDOT.

“The city is expected to respond to the NDDOT with information on actions they will take which may include monitoring the bridge or a plan to work on resolving reported bridge issues,” said Peggy Anderson, the communications division director for the NDDOT.

The bridge has an Alert Code 3, which is the most serious of the three special alert codes the NDDOT uses to indicate that attention is required.

According to the department’s letter to the city, “Bridges with Alert Code 3 remarks are critical and require attention as soon as possible.”

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The bridge does not, however, have a “critical finding,” which would require the bridge to be closed to all traffic immediately.

Anderson said that if the bridge was unsafe, the NDDOT would close it.

"Based on the inspection findings, we don't believe that this issue has a major effect on either the safety of the structure or the load carrying capacity," Anderson said. "The bridge does not exhibit major scour that would affect the stability of the bridge. This bridge is supported by deep foundations that are stable for the current conditions."

The Alert Code 3 was first coded on this bridge in June 2019.

The Structure Inventory and Appraisal sheet for the bridge states that the northeast abutment and wing has gotten worse since its last inspection in June 2019, and there is a sinkhole on the back side of that abutment that causes water to wash in and worsen the scouring (erosion) on the slope.

The city did work on the issue after its June 7, 2019 inspection.

“The abutment is the bridge to the road … We did do some work with some foam injection to bring that up, to level that up a little bit. We had a little bit of a sinkhole and some erosion that had caused that … You would definitely feel it … where it butts to the road,” said Gary Zuroff, the city’s public works director.

The bridge was inspected again on Nov. 8, 2019 after a request from the city and the city was notified of the problem in January 2020.

The city had worked on plans to address the issue that ultimately fell through. Between then and now, the city lost its engineer, Craig Kubas, who had worked to resolve the bridge's maintenance issues, to a battle with cancer.

Now, it's again planning to address those problems.

During its last meeting, the Dickinson City Commission voted to allow the City of Dickinson to hire Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson Engineering to help it quickly begin a bridge maintenance project. KLJ will inspect the bridge, provide recommendations, basic construction drawings and estimated costs, as well as help as needed with bidding and the construction phase.

The company has already completed the inspection, and the city is awaiting their recommendations and plans for repair. Zuroff said he’s hoping to begin repairing the bridge this fall.

“Hopefully soon we’ll know the scope of the project. If we can do that (work) with in-house staff, we’ll get after it right away; if it’s a larger project, we’d have to bid out and wait for the bids to come in,” Zuroff said.

Because the scope of the needed project is not yet known, the city does not yet have an estimated cost for the project.