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South Dakota Has More Structurally Deficient Bridges Than Minnesota

Back in 2011, South Dakota had the fifth-worst rate of bridge deficiency in the United States, with 20.3% of our bridges deemed structurally deficient. The $85 million in taxes we raised in 2015 must have done some good: WNAX reports that we’re down to 16.7% of our bridges being structurally deficient (of course, no separate count is given for how many of those structurally deficient bridges from 2011 have since fallen down and thus no longer count against us).

Alas, other states have made more progress on shoring up their bridges, so we’ve sunk from fifth-worst to fourth-worst, behind only Iowa, West Virginia, and Rhode Island. So says the latest report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (which, of course, has an interest in inducing us to spend more money on concrete and steel).

Nationwide, the percentage of structurally deficient bridges is 7.6%:

ARTBA, 2019 Bridge Report, p. 1.
ARTBA, 2019 Bridge Report, p. 1.

ARTBA summarizes South Dakota’s bridge needs thus:

  • Of the 5,824 bridges in the state, 973, or 16.7 percent, are classified as structurally deficient. This means one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition.
  • This is down from 1,068 bridges classified as structurally deficient in 2014.
  • 4 of the structurally deficient bridges are on the Interstate Highway System.
  • 1,120 bridges are posted for load, which may restrict the size and weight of vehicles crossing the structure.
  • The state has identified needed repairs on 2,468 bridges at an estimated cost of $534.8 million.
  • This compares to 2,543 bridges that needed work in 2014 [ARTBA, “National Bridge Inventory: South Dakota,” retrieved 2019.04.09].

5.0% of the bridges in Minnesota are structurally deficient. They have 668 structurally deficient bridges—bigger state, more cars and people, and they actually have fewer bridges in the most dire need of repair than South Dakota does.

South Dakota bridge deficiency stats, ARTBA, 2019.
South Dakota bridge deficiency stats, ARTBA, 2019.
Minnesota bridge deficiency stats, ARTBA, 2019.
Minnesota bridge deficiency stats, ARTBA, 2019.

I suspect Minnesotans will enjoy noting that SD stands for Structurally Deficient.

As a special bonus to brighten my day, the most traveled structurally deficient bridge in South Dakota is right here in Aberdeen, on Highway 12 over the swollen Moccasin Creek, just west of McDonald’s:

Top Most Traveled Structurally Deficient Bridges in South Dakota
County Year Built Daily Crossings Type of Bridge Location
Brown 1954 19377 Urban other principal arterial US012 over Moccasin Ck
Minnehaha 1979 18174 Urban collector 49th Street over Big Sioux River
Pennington 1959 10516 Urban Interstate I090 E over Boxelder Ck
Minnehaha 1912 10163 Urban collector 8th Street over Big Sioux River
Minnehaha 1948 9815 Urban minor arterial 60th Street North over Silver Creek
Minnehaha 1960 6544 Rural Interstate I090 W over Split Rock Ck
Minnehaha 1964 6485 Rural Interstate I090 W over Sd019
Lawrence 1953 6425 Rural arterial US014A over Deadwood Ck
Brown 1969 5087 Urban minor arterial 3rd Avenue SE over Moccasin Creek
Codington 1941 4837 Urban minor arterial 3rd Avenue NW over Big Sioux River
Pennington 1974 4700 Urban collector Chapel Lane over Rapid Ck
Minnehaha 1967 3895 Rural minor arterial Sd115 over Ck
Minnehaha 1978 3377 Rural major collector 478th Ave, Hwy 121 over Big Sioux River
Minnehaha 1961 3300 Urban collector E 60th St N over I229
Edmunds 1974 2906 Rural arterial US012 over Ck
Clay 1949 2890 Rural minor arterial Sd046 over Vermillion Rv
Deuel 1971 2559 Rural arterial US212 over Cain Ck
Brown 1974 2069 Urban collector 10th Avenue SE over Moccasin Creek
Minnehaha 1966 1961 Rural major collector 258th St, Hwy 130 over Big Sioux River
Mellette 1957 1690 Rural arterial US083 over Little White Rv
Pennington 1947 1685 Rural arterial US385 over Horse Ck
Kingsbury 1952 1631 Rural minor arterial Sd025 over Ck
Beadle 1951 1629 Rural minor arterial Sd037 over James Rv
Brown 1930 1400 Rural major collector 134th Street over Creek
Brookings 1925 1305 Rural major collector 471St Avenue over Ck

Well, at least if we do I-35 into Moccasin Creek, it’s not a long drop. We can all wade out.

Related: I hit Publish, open my morning paper, and learn that the ninth-most-traveled bridge on that list, over Moccasin Creek at 3rd Avenue Southeast here in Aberdeen, finally starts getting its upgrade today. 3rd Avenue, a major alternative artery for people trying to avoid mayhem on 6th Avenue, will be closed from Primrose to 550 feet east of Wilson all summer. The state says the bridge will be done by October, with overall completion scheduled for November 16. Doing the work is Prahm Construction, Inc., from Slayton, Minnesota… where they apparently get more practice fixing structurally deficient bridges.


  1. Dana P 2019-04-09 07:53

    I don’t have time to read this. There is a crisis, national emergency, that is occurring on the border. That took two years for the GOP to “declare”. That, even while this national emergency is occurring, American patriots are brave enough to go on about their daily lives.

    To go out and drive on our crumbling infrastructure……

    (apologies for the sarcasm. I couldn’t resist)

    Cory, thanks for all of the work on this. Wow. This is disturbing. “We” have been promised that there would be a lot of work done to improve infrastructure since January of 2017. Infrastructure week (eye roll) keeps getting delayed over and over again. It’s easier to pick at the minds of ignorant folks who are eager to believe that brown people are invading us and that the democrats want to ban cows and airplanes.

    The Obama administration proposed infrastructure money, and on at least five occasions, the GOP blocked those attempts.

    Elections matter. These are winning issues for democrats to run on. It’s not hyperbole. It’s our safety that is in danger and can be backed up with facts (I know, those silly things called facts)

  2. Rorschach 2019-04-09 08:24

    It looks like progress is slowly being made. At this rate we’ll catch up to Minnesota in 50 – 100 years.

  3. mike from iowa 2019-04-09 08:35

    Northern Mississippi should throw itself to the mercy of Minnesota and beg to be adopted and hope for better government and better everything else.

  4. Rorschach 2019-04-09 09:54

    Maybe you didn’t catch the part about Iowa having really bad bridges, Mike?

  5. mike from iowa 2019-04-09 10:02

    Au contraire, Ror. iowa has had bad bridges for generations and even passed a 10 cent per gallon state tax on gas to help alleviate the problem. My county is busy replacing bridges damaged by historic floods.

    US Hiway 20 is four lanes clear across iowa with the completion of the last stretch from Correctionville to Soo City. There are lots of new bridges built along the way.

  6. Jenny 2019-04-09 10:04

    Of course, Cory, MN always ranks better than SD in most everything.
    Well, except pheasants, but the pheasants will disappear if they don’t listen to the true experts and not Noem’s administration.

  7. mike from iowa 2019-04-09 10:12

    Read ’em and weep, Ror. 3 billion in the next five years with one caveat. The federal program passed and signed by Obama expires next year so if wingnuts refuse to renew it because of Obama’s signature, the state will need to restructure plan or find money elsewhere.

    How is South Dakota doing on their roads and bridges? I know SD doesn’t have the tax base iowa has, but immigration into your state would certainly help.

  8. Jenny 2019-04-09 10:12

    The absolute worst potholes I have ever ever encountered was in Council Bluffs Iowa.Thought I was going to get stuck in one, seriously. I had never seen anything like it, and am all for addition transportation funding after going through that town.
    I know Walz, he put 20 cents out there to get to 5 cents with the Republicans.
    All though I would support the 20 cent gas tax for a limited time. I’m not afraid of taxes.

  9. mike from iowa 2019-04-09 10:16

    Speaking of Minnesota, the firm brought in to rebuild collapsed I-35 bridge in Twin Cities was then same one that engineered pedestrian cross walk bridge at Florida International Uni that collapsed shortly after being opened.

  10. Jenny 2019-04-09 10:19

    I know we are talking about bridges, not roads. Sorry.

  11. Rorschach 2019-04-09 13:10

    I have a Republican-style idea to improve South Dakota’s standing in the bridge rankings. Stop inspecting bridges.

  12. mike from iowa 2019-04-09 14:55

    Without roads, what need of bridges, Jenny?

    Absolutely, Ror. Is it legal to sue the state when you are killed when a bridge the state knows is deficient comes tumbling down? Are bridges like iowa’s deer? They belong to the state and it costs a pretty penny to replace one taken illegally, but let one be the cause of a traffic fatality and the state has never heard of deer.

  13. Buckobear 2019-04-09 14:56

    From a recent editorial in the RCJ, it sounds like Pennington County is the Mississippi of SD.

  14. John 2019-04-09 18:25

    We should hold “data” provided by a road builder lobby at arms length – and then some. The data should come from an independent 3d party or government or both.

  15. T 2019-04-09 20:10

    Few years back we bid to dismantle a bridge
    Worst job ever. The structure was so dangerous, it collapsed upon the first section
    Everyone was breathless as up to a couple weeks before public was still using it.

  16. Debbo 2019-04-09 23:30

    There are big costs to those rotten bridges, even when they don’t collapse. An old bridge across the Belle Fourche River near Vale, SD was closed around 2005. People who were driving 4-5 miles to get to church suddenly were up to 12+. Not good economically or environmentally.

    I drove across that bridge once or twice, held my breath each time. It needed to be replaced, not closed.

  17. Rorschach 2019-04-10 12:12

    If you have ever driven across our northern border into Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Debbo, you will immediately notice that rural Canada never had a grid system of roads spaced 1 mile apart. Not needed in Canada and not needed in sparsely populated rural SD today. We can’t afford to maintain and replace bridges on lightly traveled rural backroads. Though I don’t know the specific bridge you described, I suspect that the money to replace that bridge was better spent elsewhere. And a 12 mile Sunday drive won’t stop the dedicated churchgoers.

  18. Debbo 2019-04-10 13:18

    Point taken, Ror.

  19. leslie 2019-04-11 10:05

    Upon collapse, “our thoughts and prayers”

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