Not Cracking Up

A crack was recently discovered on the Old Highway 50 bridge near Fleeg’s Roadhouse. The crack was spotted in one of the welds where two girders are joined together.

A concerning finding on the Old Highway 50 bridge near Fleeg’s Roadhouse has been dealt with, but it highlights the county’s ongoing struggle with keeping its infrastructure up.

Yankton County Highway Superintendent Mike Sedlacek told the Press & Dakotan that an inspection on Aug. 13 turned up a major deficiency on the bridge structure.

"As they were doing their annual inspection on it, they noticed — in one girder — there was a crack in one of the welds where the two girders join each other," Sedlacek said.

He was unsure of the exact size, but Sedlacek said the crack was around 10 inches and was located on a girder under the westbound towards the northern end of the bridge.

The bridge is currently on an annual inspection rotation due to scouring issues. The three other county bridges over the James River are inspected every other year and are due for their next full inspection in 2020.

Sedlacek said the incident was dealt with within two weeks.

"Journey Construction came in and completed the correction on the crack," he said. "It was closed down to one-lane during the repair. The repair only took three hours."

The repair work was finished Aug. 26.

Sedlacek said what happened last week on the Fleeg’s bridge wasn’t quite as dramatic as other past bridge issues.

"It was kind of a similar finding as the Johnson Bridge, except nothing to that extreme," he said.

In August 2018, the Johnson Bridge (303rd St.) over the James River was closed temporarily to all traffic after the discovery of cracked welds. A severe weight restriction was placed on the bridge, but after multiple violations of this limit, the bridge was shuttered completely again in September until the repairs could be made. The Johnson Bridge reopened in December.

Sedlacek said it’s hard to pin down an exact cause of the crack.

"We’re thinking the cause of it was possibly heavy loads and a deficiency in the weld when it was built," he said. "You can’t pinpoint the reason."

He added that officials have been assured there is no danger to the public at this time.

"This is a long-term repair and, as of now, there’s no change in load ratings," he said. "According to Clark Engineering, there’s no reason for concern for safety issues at the moment."

Even though the other county bridges over the James River aren’t due for a full inspection until 2020, Sedlacek said that Clark Engineering, which was conducting the Fleeg’s bridge inspection, took its snooper truck across the other three bridges to see if any obvious signs of trouble had become apparent.

"There were none found," he said. "Everything else is looking good."

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