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Bridge woes - Marquette County ranks worst in needed local bridge repairs

Monday, November 29, 2010   (0 Comments)
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MARQUETTE - In a recent analysis of Michigan's bridge deficiencies, Marquette County gained the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of its local bridges-those maintained by the county-in need of redesign or repairs.

"In Marquette County and across Michigan we have sadly reached the point where our bridge and road system is no longer sustainable," said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.

Nystrom's group released the analysis recently, which included data from a local bridge inventory and state bridge survey results from the Michigan Department of Transportation. The analysis found 57 of Marquette County's 98 local bridges, 55 percent, were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The second highest percentage in the Upper Peninsula was Alger County with 42 percent of local bridges needing work, followed by Schoolcraft and Iron counties, both with 29 percent.

Looking at both local and MDOT bridges across the U.P., Marquette County still came out first of the worst, with 43 percent of all of its bridges needing work. Statewide in this category, Marquette County ranked fourth.

Marquette County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Jim Iwanicki concedes the county's local bridges are in poor condition.

"Our bridges are something that has been an issue here for several years," Iwanicki said.

Iwanicki said the road commission has competed successfully for state bridge improvement funding, with 14 bridges repaired or replaced over the past 12 years. Those funds are allocated to projects with federal money covering 80 percent of project costs, 15 percent funded with state money and 5 percent provided by the county road commission, along with engineering.

"We've been very successful with this program and the reason it's been so good for us (competitively) is our bridges are in such lousy shape," Iwanicki said.

Money from the bridge improvement program was used for the new span, completed this fall, over the Dead River along Marquette County Road 510. A bridge over Bear Creek along Marquette County Road 565 will be funded through the program and undertaken next summer. Another Dead River bridge project along Forestville Road will completed under the program in 2012.

Iwanicki said that "unofficially" the road commission has been told it will also receive funding for a bridge project in 2013. Applications to the program are submitted in June with results announced late in the year for projects scheduled three years in the future.

Iwanicki said the road commission has also provided temporary bridges in some places to prolong the life of aging spans. One example is the temporary bridgework completed over the Carp River along Heritage Drive in Negaunee Township, which allowed a span shutdown for about a year to re-open to passenger vehicles and school buses. Another temporary bridge was recently put in over the Salmon Trout River along Marquette County Road KK near the Huron Mountain Club. Three others have also been completed.

"We're doing the best we can given available funding and we're going to continue to work on this," Iwanicki said.

In the state bridge category, Marquette County fared far better. Of 35 bridges, only three were on the poor condition list, with two of those either since repaired or slated for repairs through state projects.

"MDOT recently completed repairs to the M-553 bridge near Sawyer and we are scheduled to make repairs to the Champion Street bridge in Marquette in the 2011 construction season," said MDOT spokesman James Lake in Escanaba. "We are addressing the repair needs of our state trunkline bridges as best we can with available resources. However, projections show reduced transportation funding in the coming years which will inhibit our ability to make repairs to all the roads and bridges that need attention."

MDOT officials are projecting annual funding shortfalls of $120 million to $160 million from 2012 through 2015.

"Without those funds to match federal funding, Michigan would lose $575 million to $800 million annually for those years," Lake said. "Loss of that funding would result in 600 bridge projects delayed and cancellation or delay of 180 road projects over 385 miles of roads in those years. Maintenance over another 600 miles of roads would be delayed as well."

The MITA analysis found that 3,052 of Michigan's 10,831 bridges are showing signs of age and neglect. The report follows an earlier analysis which showed 28,700 of the total 110,000 miles of the state's roadways have deteriorated to "poor" condition.

"When the percentage of roads and bridges in tough shape climbs to a level this high, policymakers often have little choice but to repair and replace the failing ones rather than maintain the others before they fail as well," Nystrom said.

Nystrom cited declining gas consumption and related gas tax revenue, registration fee proceed dips and some lawmakers seeking to eliminate state matching fund requirements as factors contributing to the problem.

"Lets be clear about where we stand: We either find a way to increase funding so we can fix our crumbling infrastructure, or we wait until something tragic happens and scramble to pick up the pieces," Nystrom said. "We can no longer afford to ignore this worsening situation. The time for action is now."

MITA represents a broad spectrum of highway construction companies and suppliers, which has been a voice for securing adequate transportation funding at the state and federal levels.

For more information on the analysis and data, visit:

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