YANKTON, SD (AP) Regardless of whether more federal money comes down the pipe, a new Missouri River bridge will be built to connect South Dakota and Nebraska, according to Leon Schochenmaier, of the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT).
He said transportation officials in both states see nothing that will stop the project, to be built at Yankton.
“Both the DOT and the Nebraska Department of Roads have indicated that we are going to build this bridge regardless of whether we get more federal discretionary money or not,” Schochenmaier said.
Federal funding “is important, but it’s not critical,” he added.
So far, just under $9 million has been earmarked for replacing the 81-year-old Meridian Bridge that links Yankton and Nebraska. More money could come from a new federal highway bill in Congress.
The new structure is estimated to cost $23 million, with construction starting next year.
Engineers are looking at possible designs for the bridge.
“We’re going through the concept stage, and we plan to have the community involved in those concepts,” Schochenmaier said. “I think folks have expressed to us they’d like us to build a bridge that is really identified with the community of Yankton. We don’t necessarily disagree with that, but we have to keep costs in mind.”
Schochenmaier also said work continues on plans for converting the Meridian Bridge into a pedestrian walkway and bike path. He said the South Dakota Department of Transportation will invest up to $2 million in the project.
Some Yankton residents have asked the upper deck of the two-deck bridge be kept in use.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can do that in a safe manner,” Schochenmaier said. “We have some significant safety concerns with that top deck, not the least of which are fifth-grade kids on roller-blades and bikes.”