Big bridge project has its own website by SDDOT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a project so big it has its own newsletter and website.

Construction started on the first phase of the $50 million bridge project at Pierre and Fort Pierre in November 2020. The new bridge will replace the existing John C. Waldron Memorial Bridge which was completed in 1962.

The bridge project was selected for a website and its features as a way to keep the public informed, said Julie Stevenson, the strategic communications coordinator for the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

“The Pierre-Ft. Pierre Bridge is the connecting point between the two cities so as this project was planned, the communication efforts were included as part of the process,” Stevenson said in an email to the KELOLAND News. “It was determined that a stand-alone website was needed to provide a look at the bridge history, the construction process along the way, and the future of how the bridge will be used by both communities. Both cities were heavily involved in the planning of this project, so the site is used by both entities to keep their residents up-to-date.”

The social media and website posts are a way for the public to stay informed about the project. The S.D. DOT has found that the use of virtual engagement is a valuable tool, Stevenson said.

“Overall, we’ve found great value in virtual engagement for studies, public meetings, and construction projects as a complement to face-to-face interactions with the public, especially since the advent of COVID,” Stevenson said.

The virtual meetings allow people to submit written comments and ask questions, just as if they were in a live public meeting.

The bridge project website is filled with facts about the project, photos of the project and videos. The newsletter links are also on the page.

The S.D. DOT also regularly posts about the project on its Twitter account.

The first bridge project newsletter was published on Jan. 15, 2021, by the S.D DOT.

Stevenson said some projects that eventually get their own website are first housed on a page within a city website

Watch for a DOT website page for the 41st Street project in Sioux Falls “very soon,” Stevenson said. A page for the project is now located on the city’s website.

Some larger projects are featured on the S.D. DOT website.

An I-29 intersection project in Brookings has its own featured page, Stevenson said.

“This is a project that affects many travelers, so it has a featured project page,” she said.

Nighttime drilling in December. S.D. DOT photo

Here’s some of what you will find on the bridge website:

The new bridge will be 77-feet wide and 1,686 feet wide.

The first phase was the underwater substructure construction and beginning roadway approach work. That work had some glitches, according to S.D. DOT.

The S.D. DOT said on Jan. 22, that “The contractor, Jensen Construction Company, has experienced difficulty drilling the 9’- 6” diameter drilled shafts, and is working on planned next steps to secure equipment and manpower to advance the project forward effectively and efficiently. The contractor is working with SDDOT, as well as geotechnical and drilling experts, to determine the best drilling process before moving forward with underwater drilled shaft operations.”

The problems pushed back the opening of the bridge from December 2022 to December 2023, the S.D. DOT said.

Other facts included on the website include that the deepest support shaft is 135 feet deep, the same footage as a 13-floor building.

“The amount of concrete needed for the bridge deck and support shafts is 9,154.4 cu yards, this is equivalent to the amount of concrete found in 916 average size driveways,” the website said.

The website includes an explanation of how drilled shafts will be installed under the water. There is a video to complement the text explanation.

There’s also a time-lapse video of the progress of construction.

Drill shaft testing in June. S.D. DOT photo

There is good interest in the individual websites, feature pages and the overall construction page for S.D. DOT, Stevenson said.

Yet, the reach isn’t as far as the S.D. DOT’s Facebook page.

“Facebook is our most active social media account with more than 31,000 followers,” Stevenson said. “A fun fact – since January 1, 2022, we have had a Facebook Page Reach of 1,707,546 people.”

The top posts are weather-related especially when road closures happen or are pending, she said.