The South Dakota Department of Transportation used an innovative local grant program to speed up maintenance and repair of state bridges, saving farmers and ranchers extra time and reducing costs for the state’s agricultural industry.
The Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG) program was created by the 2015 legislative session in Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). The grants are divided into three categories: preliminary engineering, preservation, and replacement.
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, the South Dakota Department of Transportation sets aside $8 million per year of state gas tax funds, for a total of $15 million available for the BIG grants.
“The BIG program is doing exactly what it was intended, providing a funding mechanism to aid local governments in maintaining and improving local bridges.”SDDOT Secretary
State and local officials celebrated the completion of the first BIG project at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 17, 2017, in Davison County. The Foster Street bridge rehabilitation project was among the first to receive a grant under the road funding bill signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard in 2015.
The bridge, located just northeast of Mitchell and constructed in 1952, is a 166-foot steel girder bridge located on a major collector route that provides rural and suburban residents access to the business district. It also serves as an emergency route to Avera Hospital from the northern part of the county. “Bridges connect people and communities, they connect farmers and ranchers with markets, and they allow safe passage where previously it was not possible,” said SDDOT Secretary Darin Bergquist. “The BIG program is doing exactly what it was intended, providing a funding mechanism to aid local governments in maintaining and improving local bridges.”