Fans driving into Ann Arbor on Football Saturdays can look forward to less congestion and safer bridges — but they’ll have to wait two more seasons.
A multimillion-dollar plan to rebuild two of Ann Arbor’s deteriorating bridges on East Stadium Boulevard is on schedule to be completed by November 2012.
The East Stadium Boulevard Bridges Replacement and Improvement Project secured $13.9 million in funding last October through a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery II grant. At an estimated cost of $23 million, the project calls for the complete demolition and reconstruction of the two bridges, which pass over South State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad.
Construction on the project is set to begin in October, which is later than some city officials were expecting.
“I think we all expected construction to begin this spring,” Ann Arbor City Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said. She added that the prospect of construction not beginning until October is “very disappointing.”
The bridges were built in 1917 and 1928 and have received a Federal Sufficiency Rating of only two out of a 100-point scale. According to Briere, both bridges are monitored “constantly” by city engineers to ensure the public’s continued safety.
The construction activity will necessitate closure of a section of East Stadium Boulevard from Nov. 28 through the duration of the project, according to Senior Project Manager Michael Nearing. South State Street will also be closed for about two weeks this December to allow for the demolition of one bridge.
Nearing said he is not expecting “any major difficulties” regarding road closures. He added that officials will monitor the detour and will make “modifications as needed” during the construction process.
Officials are working on finalizing construction plans and expect to have them completed by early June. Bids will then be solicited through the Michigan Department of Transportation during September.
In addition to the $13.9 million supplied by the TIGER II grant, MDOT’s Local Bridge Program will provide $1.67 million for the construction, and the state’s Transportation Enhancement Funding program will provide an additional $1.2 million.
According to Nearing, the city’s portion of the bill is about $6.2 million and will be covered by a variety of sources including road repair millages.
However, recently proposed cuts to the 2011 federal budget in the U.S. House of Representatives have called into question the TIGER II funding. According to Briere, council members have not been told that the Stadium bridges’ specific funds are in jeopardy.
According to Ann Arbor Council member Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3), even if federal funding for the project were compromised, the city would move forward with its plans.
“Building the bridges is imperative, and it will be done,” Taylor said.
According to the city’s TIGER II grant application, the entire cost to repair the bridges will be made up in less than a year since the city will save money from fewer car crashes and delays, and more people will travel to Ann Arbor.
The construction will also provide an opportunity to add bike lanes, a wider sidewalk, energy-efficient LED bulbs for streetlights on each of the bridges and will eliminate vehicle weight restrictions.
In the project planning stages, Nearing said the bridges pose no threat to motorists and pedestrians.
“They don’t look very nice,” he said. “They’re kind of run down, but they’re not hazardous at all.”