County awarded 3 preliminary engineering bridge grants totaling $138K

September 12, 2018

DEADWOOD — Progress is being made in the local bridge replacement department. The South Dakota Transportation Commission announced Aug. 23 it had awarded three preliminary engineering bridge improvement grants to Lawrence County for 2019.

Highway Superintendent, Allan Bonnema said the preliminary engineering grants are for two bridges on the St. Onge Oil Road and one bridge on the Whitewood Service Road near Wheeler Lumber.

“This is definitely a good thing,” Bonnema said. “Now there are four bridges in the hopper, in the process, so that’s a good thing for the county. Once the preliminary engineering is completed, the we can apply for the second grant, which is a construction grant, in order to do the actual bridge construction.”

The Whitewood Valley Road bridge is currently in the preliminary engineering phase, as well, and accounts for the fourth bridge.

“This starts the process,” Bonnema said. “So now we can hire an engineer to do the preliminary engineering. We hire the engineer. The state pays 80 percent and the county’s share is only 20 percent.”

Each of the grant amounts is $46,000, or the state’s 80 percent cost-share portion. The entire grant amount is $138,000, with the county responsible for the other 20 percent cost of the projects.

Jan. 1, 2020, is when the county can apply for the construction portion of the grants.

“We’re making progress, here, now,” Bonnema said. “Hopefully, we can apply for a construction and for a rehab grant in January and hopefully get those awarded in April 2019.”

The application would be for a construction grant on the Whitewood Valley Road Bridge and a rehab grant on the bridge over Spearfish Creek, near the KOA Campground.

The bridge replacement costs for the two St. Onge Oil Road and Whitewood Service Road bridges is estimated to be between $1.1 and $1.3 million each.

The Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG) program was created by the 2015 legislative session in Senate Bill 1, which states that in order to be eligible for a BIG grant, a county must impose a wheel tax. In addition, a county must have a County Highway and Bridge Improvement Plan that details proposed county highway and bridge improvement projects in the county for the next five years.

SB 1 dedicated $7 million per year for the BIG funds. This money comes from the license plate fees and from non-commercial vehicle fees. In addition, SDDOT sets aside $8 million per year of state gas tax funds, for a total of $15 million available for the BIG grants.

There are four types of BIG grants, including preliminary engineering, replacement, preservation, and construction engineering.

It was estimated that in 2019, the following amounts were available for each type of grant: preliminary engineering, $1.5 million; replacement $7.5 million; preservation, $4.5 million; and construction engineering, $1.5 million.

Each county bridge project considered for grant funds is assigned a BIG score that determines its place in line for funding.

Counties earn points for the various components of the BIG grant. For instance, the more points earned, the higher the wheel tax imposed.

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