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Stark County getting USDOT funds for bridge replacements

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Stark County Commissioners Room

Stark County is set to receive federal funds for bridge replacement projects.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, through its Competitive Highway Bridge Program, has awarded $6.5 million in Bridge Rural Repair Program dollars to North Dakota.

Stark County is one of nine counties that will benefit.

The funds will go toward replacing three bridges, County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said.

"There are bridges across the state of North Dakota that qualified for this bundling," Heiser said. "There's not a whole lot of counties that are getting them, but they figure if they bundle them together and get a better price, that's what the goal was, and the federal government decided they were going to support it."

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The projects targeted include one bridge west of Highway 85, another located between South Heart and Belfield, and a third about six miles south of Taylor.

"I don't really know what the criteria was, but they had to meet a criteria to qualify for this funding," Heiser said. "We were fortunate enough to have three (bridges) that need funding. So we'll get those three out of the way."

The bridges will be taken out and replaced with a concrete box culvert.

Replacing three bridges would cost roughly $1.5 million.

The county has made such bridge replacement projects a priority over the last few years.

"We've been very fortunate to get many of those replaced this year," Heiser said. "We probably replaced six of them this year."

The bridges need to be replaced as soon as possible.

"These old bridges, some were built in the 20s, 30s, 40s," Heiser said. "They've lived their life. They're ready to be replaced."

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One problem is these bridges are too narrow.

"Farmer machinery nowadays is getting bigger and bigger. They have a difficult time getting across," Heiser said. "Years ago, farmers had small grain trucks, now they have semis. Everything is getting bigger and more efficient."

He added, "These old bridges eventually will all have to be taken out."

Stark County will benefit from receiving the USDOT funds, Heiser said.

"If we can get three of these bridges in one swoop it's pretty good," he said. "If the funding is available, we can maybe get one a year, or one every other year with the funding. Whenever there's funding available, we try to get one replaced."

It has not been determined yet when the work would start, Heiser said.

"(NDDOT is) estimating we're a couple of million short. They're going to try and figure out if we can get more federal funding to make up that balance," he said. "I believe the estimates made were a little higher, and we've been getting some pretty good prices on box culverts."

Time is needed also to address concerns with such projects.

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"With these bridges, there's lot of environmental stuff a guy needs to get done ahead of time," he said. "You have to do that during the summer time, because when snow covers up this stuff it's hard to do it."

Heiser anticipates details will be known in December, with construction in 2020.

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