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ABC 12: Some local bridges among worst in the state

Friday, November 5, 2010   (0 Comments)
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Nearly a third of all Michigan bridges are structurally deficient, according to a new report by a construction trade group.

That means the bridges are safe to drive on, but have some serious problems.

Two Mid-Michigan counties are among the worst of the worst.

The bridges were ranked in three categories. Michigan Department of Transportation bridges, local bridges and all bridges.

The list was put out by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association. According to its findings, bridges in Saginaw and Genesee counties are among the worst in the state.

In Saginaw county, 57 percent of MDOT bridges are in poor condition, earning the county a second-place finish in the state.

Genesee County ranks second when considering local bridges and all bridges.

MDOT and many local road commissions inspect bridges every two years. In MDOT's case, 21 different areas are inspected, and each is ranked from zero to nine. Nine means a bridge is in excellent condition, zero indicates a failed condition.

Inspectors look for everything from cracked or crumbling cement on the road surface to rusting steel below.

In Saginaw County, 104 of the 313 bridges are in poor condition.

The good news is that a majority of the MDOT bridges are slated to be fixed over the next five years, but MITA says there isn't enough money to fix them all.

"As we continue to put off the solution, the problem grows and so does the cost to fix the problem," NITA Executive Vice President Mike Nystrom said.

The bridges on M-46 that span Saginaw County's Swan Creek have seen better days.

"As you can see on this one, there's steel beams. Some of the paint looks like it's starting to flake off, and minor corrosion," MDOT Bay City TSC Manager Gregg Brunner said.

The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association's recent report shows this bridge is structurally deficient.

Brunner says it's safe to drive on, but has some problems. "Just wear and tear over the years. You get salt coming off the roadways. You know Michigan's freeze-thaw cycle."

Rankings notwithstanding, Brunner says he and his crews work hard to keep the bridges in shape. "Just do the best we can with the available funding."

Money however, is in short supply. MITA wants lawmakers and taxpayers to change that.

"Literally, putting a Band-Aid in places across the state where we really need major surgery done," Nystrom said.

"Everybody wants services, nobody wants to pay taxes," Bridgeport Township resident John Sarge said.

Sarge and MITA agree an increase in the gas tax is one solution. "Makes sense. It's connected to the roads," Sarge said.

Kyle McAllister believes there has to be another solution. "Gas is already high enough, I think. There's a lot of things that need to be done, not enough money to do it."

Whatever the solution, most people agree there is a problem.

"Cracks, big chunks of cement gone. Stuff like that, and it's a little leery," Saginaw resident Kyle McAllister said.

Saginaw County hopes to be removed from the worst of the worst list soon.

Over the next five years, 48 of the 55 MDOT bridges listed as structurally deficient in the MITA report are scheduled to be repaired.

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