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Baltic Bridge Closes For Safety Reasons



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South Dakota has ranked top five in the nation for having some of the worst rural bridges, according to a report called TRIP called, “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” put together in 2010.

Reasoning behind the poor score is due to lack of funding, rising construction prices and flooding.

The aging bridge in Baltic, right off the I-29, will be closed for the next year because officials said the beams holding up the bridge are in bad shape, making the bridge unsafe.

Even with safety coming first, people who used the bridge on a daily basis are not happy.

Teresa Breen is a 19-year Baltic area resident and said she used the Baltic bridge everyday and now, is being forced to drive miles out of her way, just to get home.

"It's really inconvenient," said Breen.

She said inconvenient for more reasons than one, but especially because for her passion of riding horses.

"I got to find a new place to ride, so I'm not happy," said Breen.

Her riding has been affected because the county roads she would normally ride on, are now filled with combines, trailers full of grain and corn and four wheelers, all traffic diverted because of the bridge closure.
 
"Traffic has increased three times, the speeding that's going on, I don't feel it's safe to ride," said Breen.

Minnehaha County Highway Superintendent, DJ Buthe, said shutting down the bridge is necessary; due to significant deterioration to beams underneath the bridge, rusted beams and the concrete bridge deck is rotting away at a high rate.

Aside from the inconvenience, if the problems aren't fixed now, a bad bridge could have lead to something tragic.

"I'd rather be sitting here today explaining why we made the hard decision to close then bridge then explaining why we waited so long for something worse to happen," said Buthe.

For Breen, she said she understands the safety side of the closure, but still has questions.

"I see that they're looking out for the best interest, but I don't understand why it wasn't caught sooner," said Breen.

While she waits for answers and waits for the bridge to be fixed, her focus will be on finding a new place to ride her horses.

Officials said they expect the bridge to re-open late 2013 depending on what option they move forward with.

County highway officials said they’re trying to decide whether to replace sections of the bridge or start over completely.

The project will cost anywhere between one Million to two-and-a-half Million.

There are detours available for commuters, if you're heading south on the I-29, take the Dell Rapids exit to highway 115 and if you're heading north, take the Renner exit to highway 115.

The Baltic exit is still open and there are roads that lead around the bridge, but you're looking at about a 13-mile detour.
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