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Posted: 07/23/14

BRIDGE REPAIRS. Seen above is the bridge on Wolcott Road north of 29 Mile Road over the north branch of the Clinton River. The bridge is slated for replacement this summer, and will be closed for the duration of the project. The bridge is scheduled to be open to traffic in November after the project ends.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Wolcott Road bridge
project begins in August

Observer Staff Writer
      The Macomb County Department of Roads is preparing to replace a failing bridge in Ray Township this summer.
       Road officials are set to begin a near $1 million project to replace the bridge on Wolcott Road in August, which will ultimately result in safer passage for heavier vehicles.
       The bridge is located roughly half a mile north of 29 Mile Road on Wolcott Road and passes over the north branch of the Clinton River.
       Walter Schell, deputy county highway engineer with the Macomb County Department of Roads, said the bridge needs to be replaced because it has deteriorated to the point where weight restrictions have been put in place.
       "When all is said and done, it will comply with Michigan's legal loads," he said.
       Schell said the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) received bids a week ago for the project, but has not been awarded yet. The lowest bid came in at $984,000 for construction.
       Ninety-five percent of the project's cost will be paid for by federal and state funding. The remaining 5 percent and engineering will be absorbed by the Department of Roads.
       The project is set to begin in August with the bridge open to traffic again in November. The project itself may last into the spring depending on landscaping needs.
       "It will be a complete replacement of the structure," Schell said. "We will remove the old and replace it with a new structure from the footings up."
       The county will provide space under the bridge on the south side of the riverbank if Huron-Clinton Metroparks wishes to create a path alongside the river.
       "They will have a physical space to put it, but there will be no accommodation on the bridge deck itself" for pedestrian traffic, Schell said.
       The county has no plans on salvaging any of the old structure.
       Ray Township Supervisor Charlie Bohm said the repairs will be beneficial to the township's safety, as the fire department cannot currently use the bridge with its heavy fire trucks.
       "They do extend the call time on a lot of calls by 10 minutes by the time they have to do detours," he said. "I'm sure there will be other benefits to residents after it's closed for eight to nine months."
       He said detours will be in store for residents during the project, as the bridge will be closed during the project, though he is unaware of the exact route the county will post.
       The Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved of a contract between the Department of Roads and MDOT earlier this month for the funding to replace the bridge.
       District 7 Commissioner Don Brown said it's an important project that will provide improvements to a thoroughfare in northern Macomb County.
       "Once it's done it won't need to be replaced for another 50 years," he said.
       In May, the county was ranked as the fourth worst among Michigan's 83 counties for low-grade bridges by the Michigan Infrastructure Transportation Association. The report noted that 107 of the 405 bridges in the county (26 percent) were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
       When the report came out, Department of Roads Director Bob Hoepfner said the county has jurisdiction over 213 of those bridges, so his department isn't able to address them.
       "I struggle with the term functionally obsolete," he said. "We have a number of structures that are brand new, and they're labeled as functionally obsolete."
       He said the county repaired 50 bridges a decade ago, and is still in the process of repairing other bridges. He said the average cost is about $500,000 to fix a single-span bridge, but can be in the millions depending on the size.
       `There is no such thing as a quick fix to a bridge," he said.

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