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Escanaba Daily Press: State's bridges in trouble

Monday, November 22, 2010   (0 Comments)
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ESCANABA - A recent report issued by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) shows that statewide, 28 percent, or 3,055, of Michigan's 10,831 bridges are in trouble.

Delta County Road Commission Manager Rob VanEffen said the number of bridges in poor condition in Delta County is alarming.

MITA's report is based on data collected from information in the Michigan Department of Transportation local bridge inventory list and from the MDOT bridge report.

VanEffen said currently 18 out of the approximate 82 bridges located in Delta County, or 22 percent, have a poor rating.

The majority of the bridges listed, according to VanEffen, are not true bridges, but rather large culverts, similar to the former span crossing Squaw Creek, along County Road 513. Recently the culvert was replaced by a concrete span (Con-Span) unit as part of the reconstruction of 11 miles of County Road 513.

Areas of concern in regard to bridges or culverts in poor condition in Delta County include:

Ten Mile Creek Bridge crossing Ten Mile Creek in Ford River Township.
West Gladstone Bridge crossing the Escanaba River in Escanaba Township
Days River Bridge in Brampton Township
Rapid River Bridge along 15th Road in Baldwin Township
Tacoosh River Bridge along 28th Lane in Brampton Township
County Road G-17 (Beaver Lane) crossing the Days River in Baldwin Township
County Road B-17 crossing the Bark River in Bark River Township
County Road F-4 (27.5 Road) crossing the Days River in Brampton Township
County Road H-1 (38th Road) crossing the Rapid River in Maple Ridge Township
County Road I-39 crossing the Rapid River in Masonville Township
County Road I-18 (30th Road) in Masonville Township

In breaking down the number of bridges between the county, cities and Michigan Department of Transportation, VanEffen said 58 bridges are maintained by the road commission and various cities within the county.

"MDOT is responsible for 24 bridges. Of those 24 bridges...13 percent, or three bridges, are rated as poor," VanEffen said.

Statewide, 4,414 bridges - which are the responsibility of MDOT - 30 percent or 1,332, are either functionally-obsolete, meaning their design is outdated, or are structurally-deficient.

A bridge deemed functionally-deficient features deteriorating beams, a crumbling deck or other problems that could force its closure.

Out of the bridges maintained by the road commission, six new bridges have been constructed in the past nine years, including the recent replacement and construction of a Con-Span bridge on County Road 513 crossing Squaw Creek. The Delta County Road Commission has also applied for funding for the construction of five new bridges and is awaiting news from the state whether the request has been approved or denied.

"The condition of these bridges, not only in Delta County but statewide, reflects the lack of adequate funding for road maintenance," said VanEffen.

Declining gas consumption has made road maintenance and construction difficult, explained Mike Nystrom of MITA.

"Gas revenues have plummeted by more than $100 million since 1997, the last time the state's gasoline tax was increased," said Nystrom, adding that gas revenues have fallen steadily each year since 2002.

Michigan's gas tax is used for the construction, repair and maintenance of state, county and local roads, in addition to maintenance, repair and construction of the state's 10,831 bridges.

"Across Michigan, we have sadly reached the point where our road and bridge system is no longer sustainable," said Nystrom. "When the percentage of roads and bridges in tough shape climbs to a level this high, policy-makers have little choice but to repair and replace failing bridges rather than maintain the others before they fail as well."

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