Gratiot Road bridge closed until June for replacement

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By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

The Gratiot Road bridge crossing the Pine River is closed to traffic.

And will remain so until June 30.

The St. Clair County Road Commission is demolishing and replacing the 123-foot long, 40-foot wide bridge, at a cost of about $2.26 million.

Kirk Weston, road commission managing director, said the bridge is structurally deficient and weight restrictions limited heavy truck traffic.

“It’s a weight-restricted structure,” Weston said. “It was built back in the early 1930s and is beyond its lifespan.”

Construction includes the removal of the old bridge, placing new concrete abutments and pier, building new concrete bridge decks, installing new guardrails, rebuilding about 300 feet of road on each side of the bridge and seeding where the ground is torn up.

The bridge is closed to all traffic.

The detour is Gratiot Road, to Wadhams, to Rattle Run, and back to Gratiot. About 4,000 vehicles cross the bridge on a daily basis.

Federal funding is covering about 95 percent of the construction cost.

The road commission matches 5 percent of construction costs and is responsible for the costs for preliminary work, construction engineering and inspection fees. Weston said the local dollars come out of the county road millage.

Mike Clarke, county highway and bridge engineer, said the federal dollars come from the federal gas tax. The money is administered by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“Most of our major bridge construction is done that way,” Clarke said. “We have to apply three years in advance for funding and are in competition with all other municipalities and road commissions.

Weston said the bridge replacement began in the winter months to alleviate the amount of time the road would be closed in warmer months.

“We allow them to tear the bridge down now because it’s work that can get done now, so there is less closure in the summer months,” Weston said. “They had a contract signed on Friday, and it is my understanding they have been moving equipment in when they closed down the road on Monday.”

The contractor is Millbocker and Sons Inc. of Allegan.

The road commission began its application process for the bridge reconstruction in 2011.

The bridge was slated for demolition and replacement in June 2014, but was pushed back a year because of an endangered species of mussels located in the river, Clarke said.

“We had to redesign the bridge to make it 35 feet longer so it would span over the river,” he said. “We weren’t allowed to do any work that would disturb the river bottom.”

Mike Salloum, owner of the Pontchartain Motel, 6136 Gratiot Road, said he learned about the bridge replacement Monday when workers began putting up road closure signs.

“Nobody has shown up to my business since they started,” he said. “If I don’t have anyone stopping by it will affect my business a lot.

Salloum said he intends to keep his business open for the months the road is expected to be closed.

St. Clair Township resident Shelly Glass said the bridge has been in bad shape for the 12 years she has lived next to it.

“If feels like you’re going over potholes,” Glass said in reference to the concrete bridge deck. “They did not warn us that they were closing it. But roads need to be fixed and there is not much that can be done about it.”

The road commission is slated for work on another Gratiot Road bridge that runs over the Gillett Drain east of Richmond.

This bridge will have its box culvert replaced with a pre-cast unit for an estimated $430,000, Clarke said.

“It’s a lot smaller, so we will be able to have it completed in six to eight weeks,” Clarke said. “It will be completely closed.”

Weston said work for the second bridge would begin after the completion of the first bridge. The second bridge project has not received bids yet.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 18, 2015)

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