Finally the connection is complete!
By Katie Zerr –
After many years of planning, delays, a vote of the people and stalling tactics, the railroad crossing at the end of South Main Street, connecting the city to the lakefront, is now open.
On Wednesday, Nov. 7, the barriers were moved and the first vehicles crossed the tracks onto South Main Road and into the area desiganted for future development.
“It has been one difficult battle,” said City Administrator Steve Gasser. “IT has been more than 10 years since the start of the project, but it is finally finished.”
Gasser, who started on the project when he was hired as administrator in 2006, has been through many delays and plan changes and negotiations to try and get the project finished. It has been a daily project for him to track the progress of communications and work with the South Dakota Congressional delegation in the final push to get the project completed.
“I give a lot of credit to Steve who kept pushing to make sure this project was completed,” said former mayor Kyle Jensen, who was also a councilman when the planning for community revitalization began. “We had a vision and many revisions, but we finally got it done!”
Jensen said the credit should go to the community and those committee members who worked hard to build a plan for the community, which really began in 1999.
“The people should remember all of the work that was put into this crossing,” said Jensen. “The community rallied around this project and voted on it and they got it done. I am just happy to have had a part in it.”
The long, drawn out process began when Darrell Gill was mayor and members of the community and the city council decided it was time to breathe some life back into Mobridge.
A large town hall meeting was held and residents formed committees to revitalize Mobridge.
“I really think the people of Mobridge wanted this done,” said Gill. “It was their desire that got this crossing completed.”
He said Jensen and current Mayor Jamie Dietterle are the vehicles that helped the project to completion.
“It was the determination of the people to see this through,” he said.
It was many years and many council members who worked to complete the vision set forth in 2001.
“We are ‘can do’ people in Mobridge and we get it done,” said Jensen.
He said all of the activity in Mobridge right now, including the addition to the A.H. Brown Library and the work on the new swimming pool, is a testament to that “can do” attitude of the community.
Gasser said the future of the riverfront development is in the hands of the community.
“Now it is up to the council and the riverfront development committee,” he said.
There are a number of plans being discussed at this time, but Gasser said those involved “aren’t in a big hurry” to make any decisions.
Gasser said the city would continue to work with the state to get more signage for the designated truck routes.
“We will try to do something in town to help the truckers,” he said. “The people at Mobridge Livestock have been very patient and are helping with their truck drivers. We want to do what we can to help them.”
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for FRiday, Nov. 30, before the Parade of Lights.
What took so long?
Why has it taken this long to get the project completed?
There were many reasons, including opposition from some council members and members of the community. Delays caused by engineering problems, contract labor negotiations and a number of plan changes by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company are some of the reasons the project was drawn out.
The new crossing was built as a bridge to the land south of the railroad tracks for development, a dream of some city officials since 1999 when the push for the crossing began in earnest.
In fact, the discussion of installing a railroad crossing at the end of Main Street began in the 1940s and again in the 1960s when the Lake Oahe began to form.
The completion of the project is really a plan of nearly 70 years in the making.