I-29 interchange project seeing initial progress

Addison DeHaven/Register: The 20th Street South/Interstate 29 interchange project has begun to see some progress. Pictured above (at the end of 20th looking southeast toward I-29) is the area where much of the project will take place. Bowes Construction has been responsible for the tree removal and the stockpiling of fill over the past month.

BROOKINGS – If you have driven south on Interstate 29 toward Sioux Falls in the past month or so, you may have noticed a change in the area south of Edgebrook Golf Course. What was once a forested shelter belt area surrounded by farmland now resembles a Martian-like terrain.

“It’s like a bomb went off,” City of Brookings Engineer Charlie Richter joked.

Initial progress for the long-awaited interstate interchange at 20th Street South/214th Street has begun in earnest. Bowes Construction, who was awarded the project via a low bid of $15,305,307.53, was responsible for the tree removal in the area and the stockpiling of fill material.

“We’re happy that Bowes Construction was able to get the low bid,” Richter said. “We like to see our local guys get as much work as possible in the city. We got a good relationship with Bowes, so we anticipate a smooth project.”

Richter said that once Bowes was awarded the bid, they quickly took advantage of the mild early winter weather to get a head start on the project. Now that Brookings has seen a wave of “real” winter, the project will slow down considerably as the ground freezes up. 

“Bowes Construction plans to complete the clearing operation this winter/spring to the extent possible,” Rich Uckert, of Banner Associates, wrote in an email to the Register. 

In the meantime, the South Dakota State Department of Transportation (SDDOT) will award a construction administration contract to a consultant for the oversight of the project, Richter said. 

“(The consultant) would do construction administration, inspections of the project, who would help review bills and invoices as they come in,” Richter said. “They work on behalf of SDDOT, and they report to the various groups what they see.”

The consultant will provide the SDDOT, City of Brookings, Brookings County, and other parties with progress reports throughout the entirety of the project. Richter expects the SDDOT to award a contract to a consultant in the next week or so. 

The area is not completely clear, however – an old white church still stands, now completely surrounded by dirt and appearing to be in the middle of the work area. According to Richter and Uckert, the church is on private property and does not need to be removed as it is outside of the project’s limits.

Some residents within the project’s limits were asked to relocate, but that process is now complete as well, Richter said. 

Weather will determine to what extent Bowes can continue working for at least a few months, Richter said, explaining that there might be some more fill that needs to stockpiled and possibly some more trees that need to be removed. 

“The city is excited about this project,” Richter said. “It’s going to be good for the city.”

Richter’s role in this project as city engineer is to address any resident complaints, help oversee the work around 20th Street South and 22nd Avenue South, and “any issues in between.” He will also be responsible for any work that happens on the nearest intersections and other work leading up to the on-ramps.

“Those are our interests,” Richter said. “We were involved with the design to make sure it addressed the needs of the community, and we will continue to make sure the project addresses those.”

There were a few complaints from residents who may have been surprised with the noise when the tree removal started, but that’s kind of the nature of this work, Richter said. 

The SDDOT and the consulting team will hold a progress meeting with Bowes in the near future to determine the next steps of the project, Uckert wrote. Following this meeting, the construction sequence and schedule will be determined.

“The project is expected to be complete during the summer of 2023,” Uckert wrote. “A majority of the grading work and the interchange structure is expected to be completed in 2022 with final surfacing and remaining items planned for 2023.”

Richter expects the project to cost right around the $15.3 million bid mark as they don’t expect any change orders. He said they have done “a pretty thorough” job identifying soils or any other things that may come up that could raise the price tag on the project. 

The Interstate 29 project will provide a new on/off ramp into Brookings via 20th Street South. The project will connect the southern edge of Brookings and Aurora via an overpass. From the Brookings side of the interstate, 20th Street South will turn into 214th Street, an unpaved township road on the Aurora side. The City of Aurora has paved Redmond Road (the road that 214th Street turns into) in anticipation of the interchange project.

“(The interchange) will probably provide amenities to that side of town that they didn’t have before,” Richter said. “The city anticipates some level of development to be spurred by this overpass.”

According to Richter, the SDDOT does not anticipate closing Interstate 29 during the construction process.

For more information on the interchange project, visit 20thstinterchange.com.

Contact Addison DeHaven at [email protected]

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