Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge proving its value after 1 year

Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge proving its value after 1 year A celebration of the one-year anniversary of the Newcastle/Vermillion Missouri River Bridge will be held Sunday, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Buffalo Run Winery west of Vermillion. A program will be held at 2:30 p.m. by David Lias In some ways, it's hard to believe that the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge over the Missouri River has only been in existence for a year.

Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the formal dedication of the bridge.

The span has become a large part of the lives of the people who live on both sides of the Missouri � so much so that it is difficult to recall life without the bridge.

A celebration of the one year anniversary of the bridge will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Buffalo Run Winery west of Vermillion. A program will be held there at 2:30 p.m.

"The bridge created a 360 degree service area for economic development potential, including increasing the available work force, and providing more resources and opportunities for attracting new businesses," said John Paulson, CEO of Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital and president of the Vermillion Development Company Board of Directors.

The bridge also is playing a crucial role in supporting businesses that were already established in the Vermillion community before the link across the river was completed, he said.

"I certainly believe it has brought new customers which has helped provide stability to local businesses as well as a potential for growth, and we've seen that in our medical center in terms of patients coming here from Nebraska that we haven't seen in the past," Paulson said. "We think we're building relationships with them and we'll become connected to them as the clinics do in town as well, to be their community medical center. That's important for the continued growth and development of health care in this area."

In 1988, local leaders from both South Dakota and Nebraska met in the Newcastle Fire Hall and organized what finally became a successful effort to plan and construct the bridge.

The Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge Committee was organized in 1989 and incorporated in 1991, the same year the bridge was authorized by Congress.

But it took nearly a decade to secure the funding needed for the $22 million project.

Sen. Tom Daschle was able to keep the project alive in 1996 when it appeared impossible to gain the needed federal revenue.

Groundbreaking to mark the start of the bridge's construction took place in July 2000.

"I continue to be amazed by the number of goodwill stories who have come over (the river on the bridge) and they've secure employment over here," said Vermillion Mayor Roger Kozak. "Or they've come over and they've taken advantage of a service from the hospital, or they've been able to find something they had been shopping for in one of our stores.

"I just believe that continues to build and build and build," he said. "I'm not sure we've really realized the full potential of all of this," he said.

"What a change the Newcastle/Vermillion Bridge Missouri River Bridge has made for northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota � Vermillion especially," said Jim Green, co-chairman of the Newcastle/Vermillion Missouri River Bridge Committee.

Green was one of several individuals from both sides of the river who tirelessly for years to help make the bridge a reality.

"We have seen the expansion of Hy-Vee, McDonald's has come to town and there has been an increase of business on Main Street as well as Highway 50," Green said. "Pump 'N Pak was built on the corner of Highway 50 and Highway 19 during the time of planning and construction of the Newcastle/Vermillion River Bridge."

Kozak said the bridge makes even rather simple, enjoyable aspects of life possible. If people in Vermillion want to view a sporting event at Wayne State College, for example, it's a much easier drive.

"It's such a pleasure for us to simply jump in our automobiles and take advantage of something like that in a very reasonable amount of time," Kozak said. "As we experience this, I think we're continuing to learn of all the amenities that are made possible by the bridge.

"I know there are some people who enjoy driving to Newcastle to have dinner on a particular evening," he said.

The bridge has even given new meaning to the autumn season in the region.

"The fall colors � there are people I know that went across the bridge, took Highway 12 and went over the Highway 81 up to Yankton and back over, and really enjoyed the loop," Kozak said. "The topography of the land on this side of the river and the Nebraska side are just very, very different."

The funding allocation for the metal and concrete structure, Paulson said, was money well spent.

"I think the bridge has been tremendously important for allowing the communities on both sides of the river to take on a regional cooperative spirit in looking at opportunities for development, not only in their own communities, but throughout the area," he said. "The bridge opened up a broader service area for us to work in. Its providing us with access that we didn't have before, and we're still discovering how to pursue new opportunities."

The bridge gives agribusiness in the region a big boost, Paulson said.

"When you recognize there are farmers in northeast Nebraska that can join with those in southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa to make something happen � it creates the critical mass that's required to make things happen," he said. "What's good for one community can be good for all communities, and if we work together, we can all have more."

At dedication ceremonies held a year ago on the newly completed bridge, hundreds of people from South Dakota and Nebraska gathered to celebrate.

They knew that good things were about to happen, but weren't sure how much of a impact the new route over the river would have.

Paulson believes that in its first year, the bridge has changed lives of people in the region for the better.

"We recognize that the bridge does go both ways," he said. "People are discovering new things they can easily access in Nebraska. There are partnerships represented in the Missouri River Institute and the development of the Missouri River area for recreation and cultural activities."

"I continue to hear such positive comments about how things are now available that had not been available prior to the connecting of the land with the bridge," Kozak said. "We're involving Newcastle in our regional development subgroup in Growing Vermillion, and they are very excited about that.

"I know the university continues to work with the Missouri River Institute, and we're just beginning to tap the potential of the programming we can do together on the Lewis and Clark bicentennial," he said. "We are still learning as we go. We are still discovering new opportunities."

Paulson is also excited about the educational exchange made possible between the two states, and more specifically, between Vermillion and northeastern Nebraska.

"I believe the bridge has been a great addition to the present as well as the future of the communities it is connecting," Paulson said. "The spirit that was embodied in the people that helped accomplish the bridge project has become part of the spirit that will promote this regional cooperation we need."

"It really continues to be exciting," Kozak said. "One year out, and the enthusiasm hasn't waned whatsoever. I think, if anything, it continues to increase."

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