ESCANABA — It’s been over a decade since plans for the Escanaba River Bridge Replacement began and the date for construction is growing near.
Back in 2004/2005, MDOT was looking to replace the Escanaba River Bridge. It got to the point where the cost of replacing the structure was more than they could afford at the time.
“We basically did a maintenance project,” said TSC Manager Michael Premo, “we repaired the existing bridge and then we said, we’re going to save our money and in about ten years we’ll do the project, and we’re here now.”
The current bridge over the Escanaba River was constructed in 1929, yielding in a growing need for updates.
“There are 26,000 cars a day that do go through there,” said Project Design Engineer Mark Kleikamp, “through US–2 at the structure so the traffic volumes are high for the Upper Peninsula.”
With that being said, a significant effort has been put into making sure that traffic can continue as smoothly as possible, which includes keeping US–2 available for a majority of the construction period. The detour route and construction staging has been looked at extensively.
“We have computerized models that we put our traffic volumes into,” added Kleikamp, “and we anticipate what the left hand turns and the right hand turns are, model that into our computer and determine our backups. Right now we do understand that the traffic is going to be slowed during the time of construction, but it will not be stopped.”
“It will be one lane each direction on US–2 for the majority of the project,” said Assistant Region Design Engineer Cory Gardner, “we will have to detour on four separate occasions for approximately a total of seven days. Those will be mid–week days, three times in 2017 and one time in 2018.”
The project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017 and completed in the fall of 2018. Once it is done, significant improvements will be easily noticed, including improved visibility for drivers.
“There will be significant geometric improvements made,” added Gardner, “horizontally we’re going to build the bridge on one consecutive curve banked in one direction. We’ll be raising the grade roughly seven feet to improve the vertical profile and also provide a down grade across the bridge, where as the bridge is flat right now. We’ll also be widening the bridge.”
“The overall width is going to go from the current 60 feet up to about 100 feet,” added Premo.
“We’ll be making five 12 foot lanes, full 10 foot shoulders and providing a 14 foot wide non–motorized path on the downstream side,” added Gardner.
The railroad bridge will be replaced as well. Between the Escanaba River Bridge, the railroad bridge, and road realignment and reconstruction, the total cost is estimated at 15.5 million dollars.
Another public meeting will be held prior to construction.