BISMARCK — North Dakota is getting $6.5 million in federal money to help replace 18 aging rural bridges across the state, including two in Burleigh County.
The money going to the state Department of Transportation is through the federal transportation department’s Bridge Rural Repair Program.
“This is the first time this type of grant has been offered,” North Dakota transportation spokeswoman Jamie Olson said.
The Federal Highway Administration last September announced $225 million in one-time funding for Competitive Highway Bridge Program grants. Federal Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao at the time said the goal was to ensure safe bridges in rural states — those with a population density of less than 100 people per square mile.
Twenty-five states, including North Dakota, qualified. U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., a member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Committee, announced the state’s grant this week.
“Ensuring the roadways are connected with reliable bridges will help North Dakotans to safely and efficiently get where they’re headed,” he said.
The bulk of the bridges that will be replaced are in western North Dakota: three each in Williams and Stark counties, two each in Burleigh and Ward counties, and one in McKenzie County.
In eastern North Dakota, three bridges will be replaced in LaMoure County, two in Grand Forks County, and one each in Walsh and Traill counties.
All of the bridges are owned by the counties except the one in Traill County, which the state owns. Some are steel, some concrete and some timber, or a combination of materials. They range in length from 22-53 feet and in age from 38-90 years old. Most span smaller rivers or creeks.
“We worked with the local county officials on identifying bridges needing replacement,” Olson said. “None of them are considered unsafe, but they are in need of replacement due to condition, age and/or load-carrying capacity.”
The Burleigh County bridges — spanning creeks north of Baldwin and southeast of Regan — are concrete-and-timber structures on gravel roads in agricultural areas, County Engineer Marcus Hall said. The Baldwin-area bridge is 38 years old and the Regan-area structure dates back 55 years.
"At some point they need to be replaced," Hall said. "They're safe for public traffic but they are deteriorating over time, like everything else. It was fortuitous for us to be able to get a funding package for these particular bridges at this time."
The federal money will pay for 59% of the project cost, with the rest falling to the bridge owner — in most cases the counties. Burleigh County's local match is still being worked out through the county budgeting process for 2020 and possibly 2021, Hall said.
The federal funding also requires that officials “bundle” at least two bridge projects into a single contract, for efficiency reasons.
“The projects funded under the program will serve as models for similar bridge improvement projects throughout the nation,” Federal Highway Administrator Nicole Nason said in a statement. “They are examples of how to achieve time and cost savings through innovation.”
The North Dakota work won’t begin for a while — bidding is tentatively planned for fall 2020, with construction occurring in 2021 in most cases. The work will require traffic detours, Olson said.