Tyler Bialek of the Anlaan Corporation helps guide a bucket pouring pea gravel around the foundation of the West Front Street Bridge being reconstructed over the Boardman River in downtown Traverse City. The gravel replaces material that was removed when the foundation was built. The project, which began in September 2021, is expected to be completed by July of this year.

TRAVERSE CITY — Three bridges in Traverse City that for some years were in the crosshairs for major upgrades or complete replacement are all but finished, while work on a fourth continues.

City Engineer Tim Lodge said contractors working on the West Front Street bridge demolished it down to the water line. But more than a dozen feet of cobble, possibly from a previous bridge, had to be cleared out and delayed installation of the coffer dams needed to work below water level.

“I think we’ve addressed it now, and so the sheet piling has been installed,” he said. “Now we’re working on the remainder of the project to get the foundations constructed here as soon as possible.”

The concrete arch filled with earth reached a point where it needed total replacement, as previously reported. Underground cobble was a surprise, but environmental contamination on the river’s west bank isn’t.

Part of the plan is to draw down the water in the west coffer dam, remove contaminated soil (with help of a state grant) and pour what’s called a tremie seal, a 3-foot plug up to 14 feet below the water line, Lodge said. That’ll ready the coffer dam to install the new bridge’s foundations.

Contractors won’t need a tremie seal on the other side, Lodge said — a simple sump pump will do.

Work on those new footings should start within the next couple of weeks, Lodge said. That’s a departure from the original schedule, where the contractor planned to take some time off in the winter. Pushing through should get the project back on track to be done by July.

“That’s the schedule that they have given me, that we now have an updated schedule that accomplishes that,” he said, adding that’s always subject to change.

The extra work of clearing the cobble comes with extra cost, Lodge said. On Tuesday city commissioners will consider a change order to the bridge contract for $18,850, a sliver of the $377,000 total charge for dealing with the boulders, documents show.

That percentage reflects the Michigan Department of Transportation funding the bridge replacement through its Local Bridge Program, as previously reported. State funds will pay for the majority of the bridge’s contract cost, originally at $3,978,914.

Three other bridges also got overhauls thanks to the same state fund. For a total of $4,971,405, the Park Street bridge got a new deck and repainted support beams as part of a package of three projects. The other two were the Eighth Street bridge getting a new deck with a reconfigured surface that extends bike lanes and widens sidewalks, plus an elevated sidewalk below. The South Cass Street bridge, also known as the American Legion Memorial Bridge, got a substantial overhaul, including a new road surface and pedestrian walkway.

All three are open to traffic but have a few finishing touches yet to be installed, Lodge said — a decorative railing for the South Cass Street bridge that will mimic its original has yet to be delivered and the manufacturer couldn’t provide an estimated date, for example.

With all three bridges all but complete, and a fourth on its way, Lodge agreed it’s good to check these projects off a long infrastructure to-do list — he told commissioners in December that the city plans on tackling more than $12 million more in projects from its Capital Improvements Project plan.

Among them are two bridges, the South Union Street and North Cass Street bridges. The first is between State and Sixth streets, the second between Grandview Parkway and Front and both span the Boardman River (also known as the Ottaway River).

Estimates put the South Union Street bridge project at $1,575,000, with the MDOT Local Bridge Program again picking up most of the cost, documents show. It’s due for a new deck and steel beams.

So too is the North Cass Street bridge, with cost estimates at $800,000, documents show.

Lodge said replacing the concrete beams with steel will reduce the deadweight, allowing for construction of a thicker deck on the original foundation. That deck will feature epoxy-coated steel reinforcements, plus galvanized steel beams supporting it to better weather the elements and road salt.

Plans are to complete both projects during the 2022 construction season, starting sometime after July 15, Lodge said.

“We’re still working very hard to make that happen,” he said, adding the city’s working with a consultant on the design instead of doing them in-house as before.

Editor's note: Because of a reporter's error, this article contained the wrong cross streets for the South Union Street bridge. They are State and Sixth streets. Jan. 14, 2022


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