Motorists travel on the Eighth Street Bridge in Traverse City on Tuesday.

TRAVERSE CITY — Work on three of four bridges in Traverse City could start as soon as April.

The projects, all of which are largely funded by Michigan Department of Transportation grants, have been in the works for a few years and city Engineer Tim Lodge said his office worked tirelessly through 2019 to get them ready to bid. That includes resubmitting project documents to an MDOT pre-screening process five times with the assistance of a consultant from MDOT, he said.

“I didn’t anticipate that we would have this many reviews,” he said, adding that they hadn’t done a bridge project for many years.

The Eighth Street, Park Street and South Cass Street bridges over the Boardman River could close in spring, with the Eighth and Park streets bridges reopened by Labor Day and the Cass Street bridge by November, city Engineer Tim Lodge told city commissioners at a recent study session.

Those three will be combined into one construction contract for which the Michigan Department of Transportation could seek bids as soon as March, Lodge said. West Front Street bridge plans need more work, though, so that will be bid separately.

That badly deteriorated bridge, built in 1904, needs replacing, Lodge said. A test in recent years involving fitting the bridge with gauges and driving a heavy truck across showed no movement.

“My biggest concern is whether the sides fall off,” he said.

The new bridge will have wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes, various streetscaping elements like a crosswalk spanning the street and pilings for a potential future boardwalk underneath, Lodge said — the river channel under the new span will be slightly wider at about 65 feet versus the current 55 to 58.

The new structure will get a façade to resemble a double arch, as will the Eighth Street Bridge, documents show.

Work on the West Front Street span should start in October and wrap by July 2022, Lodge said. He’s aiming to have the project ready for bid by April. Permit restrictions prevent working in the river in March and April, and plans are to open the waterway on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to July 2022.

Both Eighth and Park street bridges will get new bridge decks, Lodge said. The Eighth Street bridge, built in 1974, will also get new supports, and steel beams supporting the 1956-built Park Street bridge will be repainted. The river below both bridges should also be open on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Oct. 20.

The Eighth Street project also includes wider sidewalks, adding bicycle lanes to connect with those just completed east of the bridge in September 2019, raising an existing walkway under the bridge that’s chronically flooded, and replacing the old water main to connect two stretches of new pipe laid during previous roadwork on either side of the bridge.

Both Eighth and Park Street bridges will get railings and other pedestrian lighting, documents show.

Overhauling the South Cass Street Bridge, known as the American Legion Memorial Bridge, is more involved and aims to restore some of the bridge’s historical character, Lodge said.

The concrete arch bridge, built in 1930 and on the National Historic Register, is filled with dirt that needs to be removed along with the asphalt pavement, he said. Then, contractors will add reinforcements to the arches so they can support heavier loads before replacing the fill.

The historic facades, altered in the 1970s and ‘80s, will be restored, and fiberglass reproductions of the bridge’s original balustrade railings will be added, Lodge said. Cantilevered brackets supporting the bridge sidewalks will be redone as well — the current ones are so bad that the sidewalk had to be closed on one side.

Safety standards require a steel crash barrier railing between the road and sidewalk, Lodge said.

Paddlers will have temporary stairs at American Legion Park to exit the river, and contractors will leave space for kayak liveries to park trailer-towing vehicles to pick up the vessels, Lodge said.

The latest cost estimates put the projects at $1,909,491 for the West Front Street bridge replacement, $808,538 for the South Cass Street bridge overhaul, $1,584,505 for the Eighth Street bridge rehab and $645,553 for the Park Street bridge overhaul.

Funds from MDOT’s Local Bridges Fund will chip in $3.55 million of the cost, with other funding available to fill in the gaps, documents show. That includes $890,000 from the city Downtown Development Authority’s tax increment finance money, $485,000 from city municipal utility coffers and $136,000 to clean up contaminated soil near the West Front Street bridge.

Traffic disruptions could be minimized by the fact that the Boardman Avenue and Eighth Street intersection will remain open, Lodge said — unlike during the 2019 Eighth Street work.

Plus, workplaces and businesses impacted by the pandemic might not reopen until later in the summer, Lodge said.

“So the thought was to go ahead and implement the projects even if there were some challenges traffic mobility-wise,” he said. “If we do it earlier there’s going to be less impacts because I don’t think the level of impact is going to be so great earlier in the year.”

Mayor Jim Carruthers said he had his doubts, and believes businesses will reopen as soon as they can. Plus, people feeling cooped up are likely to want to head out.

“We do need to be prepared for a potentially busy tourist season,” he said.

Two more bridges are on deck for fixes in 2022, Lodge said. The South Union Street bridge needs a new concrete deck, repainted steel beams and the North Cass Street bridge needs a new deck, concrete beams and railings.

Those bridges also will be bundled together, Lodge said. They also have MDOT funding lined up — $1,175,000 for the South Union Street bridge and $1,015,000 for the North Cass Street bridge.

The city also has a handful of culvert replacement projects lined up for 2021, including where Kids Creek runs under Sixth Street and two on Cedar Street, Lodge said. The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay scored a $1,488,717 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Project Grant.

City commissioners on Monday could vote to accept that grant, and award a $2,432,496.95 contract to Elmers Crane & Dozer to replace the culverts with short spans, documents show.


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