Our lives have suddenly changed ­ for the better

Our lives have suddenly changed � for the better By David Lias Asphalt, steel and concrete, on their own, we must admit, aren't very appealing.

They don't glitter like gold. You can't buff it to a fine shine like marble.

Let's face it. Asphalt, steel and concrete are all around us. They are common components in just about every major street, highway, and building structure we encounter in our daily lives.

Something special happens, however, when you take these common building components and mix in a bit of humanity � mainly blood, sweat and tears.

A thing of beauty is created.

People in our region began driving Nov. 1 over the new Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge. On the South Dakota side, they drove on five miles of new road constructed with 91,000 tons of base course and 26,000 tons of asphalt concrete.

Besides being an incredibly well-engineered road, this new route to the Missouri River snakes through possibly some of the most beautiful land in the region.

And suddenly, with less than a mile before reaching the river, there's a curve in the road, and there it is, a magnificent span, its concrete glowing pure white as it reflects the bright autumn sun.

In technical terms, it is a 2,455-foot continuous composite girder bridge, 36 feet wide, with two driving lanes, shoulders and a barrier rail.

The bridge is made up of 12 spans requiring over 6,600 cubic yards of concrete and just over 11,000 tons of reinforcing steel.

Concrete, steel and asphalt. Lifeless and dull, until touched by an unrelenting human spirit.

We encourage our readers to closely study the special publication we've inserted in our newspaper this week. We've tried our best to do justice to the incredible photographs taken by Bill Willroth Sr. since last summer when construction of the bridge began.

He captured images of the bridge work at nearly every stage of its construction. We're just sorry there's no way we could include all of them in our publication.

We also hope everyone who reads our bridge publication will come away with a clear understanding of this project's rather arduous history. We can't begin to list all of the people who played a part in turning the dream of a span across the Missouri into a reality.

It's important, however, that we hold on to this history, that we not forget the countless hours that Nebraskans and South Dakotans toiled to bring us to this glorious point in time.

The Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge is more than asphalt, concrete and steel. It's not simply a lifeless object. It is a work of beautiful human engineering that has its own special power.

Starting Nov. 1, when the bridge officially was opened to traffic, South Dakota and Nebraska were instantly changed.

We will never be quite the same.

The Missouri River has always restricted us in some ways. It drove Vermillion's early settlers away from its banks.

It effectively cut off all forms of effective transportation between southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska.

It stopped people who can view each other's states from their living room windows from getting to know each other.

Until now.

The bridge project cost approximately $22 million. But how can you put a price on the benefits South Dakotans and Nebraskans will receive simply because they can finally interact with each other?

We won't even try. It's simply impossible.

The best we can do is what we hope everyone in the Newcastle and Vermillion regions will do.

This is a time to remember, a time to celebrate.

It is a time to extend heartfelt congratulations to the planners, the contractors, the construction workers, and the government officials who did such an efficient job of constructing this bridge.

And most importantly, it is time to express thanks to those among us with the imaginations to dream of this project, and a spirit that just wouldn't quit.

Because of these individuals, our lives have suddenly changed.

For the better.

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