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Green River bridge temporary rehabilitation underway

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A Stark County bridge, over 70 years old, is currently receiving much needed rehabilitation. (Photo courtesy of Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser)

After an inspection last summer revealed structural and erosion concerns on the Green River bridge, east of Dickinson, Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser addressed the county commissioners on Tuesday about the ongoing rehabilitation work. Heiser also addressed the potential for a much more thorough long term project — if needed.

Heiser detailed the situation with the 70 year-old bridge’s deterioration and explained that the bridge averaged approximately 1,085 vehicles per day as a key thoroughfare for agricultural traffic in the area.

The road department closed traffic on the southside lane of the bridge until temporary fixes were completed by Winn Construction, a Dickinson based residential, commercial and municipal concrete expert.

“It’s deteriorating and eroding really bad. We had a bridge structural engineer come out last week and looked at it and told us what the possible fixes are. So by this afternoon that road will now be closed down to one lane with a stop light on either side of the bridge,” Heiser said. “There are really good guys out there doing it, and I’m 100% confident that what they are doing is probably going to work.”

Heiser confirmed that conversations with the North Dakota Department of Transportation established that there are no funds available for rehabilitation and that funding for the project would have to be established from other means.

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Andrew Krebs, a professional engineer with KLJ, detailed environmental considerations and traffic control concerns related to the project.

“Right now it’s down to one lane like Al mentioned, and if it’s an option to maintain one lane while we do a rehab that is something we are looking at. That could prolong the project because we can’t do as much at one time,” Krebs said. “Another option is to close the bridge entirely and put a detour to the north of probably three miles. The third option is to build a temporary bypass.”

According to Heiser, closing the bridge completely would speed up the rehabilitation project, but doing so could result in significant costs and delays.

“If we close the bridge off we can speed this rehabilitation project up much faster, because if we go into the creek with a detour then we have to get Army Corps of Engineer permits and it's like pulling teeth from an alligator to get a Corps permit and get things done in a timely manner,” said Heiser.

A previous bridge detour bid on a similar project 5 years ago totaled $76,000, but Krebs believed the price point for a detour today would cost upwards of $100,000.

“With this rehab what we need to do is go and do a full inspection of the bridge. That would include all of the piers because the concrete is crumbling on the top where the bridge sits on it and that’s a pretty big concern,” Krebs said. “Once we have an idea after that inspection and know the extent of the project, we want to fast track this project.”

According to Krebs, the third option of a temporary bypass would create much more environmental work and permit costs related to the project at a significant delay. Krebs said that it is too late to do much more than temporary fixes this year and that the path forward would be to issue a spring bid on the rehabilitation project if the temporary fixes don’t resolve the problem. Krebs warned that the options involving the bypass would most likely delay the project until 2022.

Commissioner Dean Franchuk asked if there were estimates on how long the project would shut down the traffic on the bridge.

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“At this time I don’t know the extent of the project and how long we’d have to be shut down, but it would probably be a month or two,” Krebs replied.

Heiser said he believed that the fixes currently underway could completely resolve the problem, but that a full inspection could uncover even more problems requiring a complete rehabilitation of the bridge.

The commissioners tabled discussions related to any long term project until the temporary fixes were complete and requested a full report from KLJ after their inspection.

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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