Federal data cast doubt on safety concerns of Sixth Street Bridge
Safety cited as reason to replace 'Unity Bridge' at double its estimate, but bridge had structure rating that was 'tolerable'
The Sixth Street Bridge in Downtown Sioux Falls has been labeled “structurally deficient” for years in its inspection reports, and it was that term that led some city councilors to approve a bid that was two times what the city estimated to rebuild the structure on Tuesday.
The city’s engineering estimate of $11.1 million for the bridge didn’t come close to the bid of $21.8 million submitted by local contractor Journey Group. It was the only bid on the project, and at the request of Mayor Paul TenHaken’s administration, the City Council voted 6-2 to accept the bid for the so-called “Unity Bridge.”
But left unsaid in Tuesday’s meeting, the definition of “structurally deficient” is not uncommon – nearly 20 percent of the state’s bridges have had that designation.
And in the most recent inspection of the Sixth Street Bridge, done in 2020, inspectors assigned its overall structural integrity a 4 based on a 0-9 grading system, according to a review of data by The Dakota Scout. While not great, a 4 means a bridge “meets minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as is,” according to federal criteria.