Popular SD ‘Singing Bridge’ hits temporary sour note after damage found

National News

The ‘Singing Bridge’ over the Grand River near Mobridge. Photo courtesy: South Dakota Department of Transportation

MOBRIDGE, S.D. ( KELO) — The “Singing Bridge” over the Grand River on South Dakota Highway 1806 near Mobridge was given its nickname after it was built in 1963.

“The vehicle tires traveling over the original concrete texture of the bridge deck made a whining noise, or made it ‘sing,’” said John Villbrandt, the Mobridge Area Engineer for the SDDOT.

The ‘Singing Bridge’ over the Grand River near Mobridge. Photo courtesy: South Dakota Department of Transportation

When the bridge as re-surfaced several years ago, the new surface didn’t ‘sing,’ Villbrandt said. But despite no song, the community and even the SDDOT referred to the bridge as the ‘Singing Bridge.’

“I just know it as the “Singing Bridge,” said Diane Klindt, a Mobridge resident and manager of the Klein Museum in the city.

Singing or not, the bridge has been an important link between Mobridge and the communities of Wakpala and Kenel on the Standing Rock Reservation, said Heather Beck, the Mobridge city administrator.

So when damage reported on Feb. 20 temporarily closed the bridge for several days until it was opened on Feb. 25 with weight and speed restrictions, the area lost that important link.

The Highway 1806 bridge, known as the “singing bridge”, west of Mobridge and north of Highway 12 over the Grand River, is now open to vehicular traffic.

On Feb. 20, 2021, the Department of Transportation closed the bridge as a safety precaution due to observed distress reported on the bridge.

Preliminary indications were that due to the recent extreme cold temperatures, the bridge girders contracted and caused damage to the concrete support system at one bridge pier cap. The bridge was inspected and no additional damage was identified.

The SDDOT designed and completed a temporary solution. A 20 ton weight restriction and 35 mph speed restriction are in place until a permanent fix is completed at a later date. Signage is on site to alert drivers to these restrictions.

SD DOT’s notice after the “Singing Bridge” was opened with limitations on Feb. 25.

“It has constant traffic,” Klein said. “It’s a major access…”

The average daily traffic on the bridge is 806 vehicles, Villbrandt said.

The 4,000-foot bridge covers a lot of miles.

If the bridge is closed, travelers between Wakpala and Mobridge need to go an extra 30 to 50 miles to reach each destination, Villbrandt said.

If travelers use the best road between Mobridge and Wakpala they travel 59 miles compared to seven miles using the bridge. The next best road is 32 miles compared to seven miles using the bridge, Villbrandt said.

“Before the bridge was built you had to go at least 20 miles to get to Wakpala,” Klindt said.

That old roundabout way and any bridge closure means teachers and students who need to reach the school and Wakpala from the Mobridge side of the Grand River need to travel those extra miles.

Wakpala and Kenel residents who want to shop or keep a doctor’s appointment in Mobridge also need to travel those extra miles.

Klindt said people also travel across the bridge to get to jobs in all of the communities.

“That’s why it’s so important…,” Klindt said of the bridge.

“Anybody would have to go 30 miles to get to a job compared to six miles,” Klindt said.

Villbrandt said it appears the damage was caused by the extreme cold. “We had some 30-below zero days for a stretch…,” he said.

The SDDOT said a design in underway for permanent repairs. It anticipates letting a contract within the next few months.

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