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Crews face challenges constructing Pierre-Fort Pierre bridge

Ft. Pierre - Pierre Bridge 3.2.23
Ft. Pierre - Pierre Bridge 3.2.23

For citizens of the Pierre-Fort Pierre area, the construction of the new bridge has been a slow-moving process.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation said that the original projected plans for the bridge to open in December of 2023 was pushed to the summer of 2024.

Dean VanDeWiele is a South Dakota Department of Transportation Pierre-area engineer. He said the delay in the bridges progress is due in part to the complications of working underwater.

“You're just seeing the river water elevation, and so when you're going down you really had to watch the evaluations of your auger as your drilling because you never really know if you got a good bite of clay as you're pulling it up... Or did you not get any clay at all, did you go too deep, and it's very hard for the crane to lift back up?," said VanDeWiele. "So because you couldn’t see, because you're just looking at the top of the river water surface, that was another additional challenge to working below water.”

The project was spurred by a bridge replacement study conducted by the Department of Transportation in 2016 which showed signs of bridge deterioration.

The new bridge will serve as the primary crossing point over the Missouri River between Fort Pierre and Pierre.

VanDeWiele said the bridge will have features that increase functionality, user enjoyment, and offer improved aesthetics.

“What's really neat about this bridge is that it will have a 12-foot shared use path. Shared use means that walkers and bicyclists will be able to walk side-by-side, and right now I think we are only at a five-foot width. You feel really constrained walking on the sidewalk across the bridge today, and you feel very close to traffic," said VandeWiele. "It is going to have scenic overlook, they call them belvederes, they are benches out on the bridge, with these bump-outs that you can just sit and look down on the river, look up and down the river. So it's really going to more meet the needs also of today's user, if that makes sense, vs. just cars and trucks.” 

The bridge is currently limited to a two-way traffic configuration and will maintain a 10-foot width restriction throughout the 2023 construction season.

The Department of Transportation said the new bridge is anticipated to be open for traffic usage in the summer of 2024 with an anticipated completion date of the summer of 2025.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.