By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald
The westbound span of the Blue Water Bridge is closing a little earlier than planned.
Crews will start moving signage into place to close the westbound span at 7 a.m. Sunday. All international traffic will be moved to the eastbound span by noon.
The Michigan Department of Transportation and Canada’s Federal Bridge Corporation Limited originally said work would begin April 1. The westbound span of the bridge, built in 1937, will remain closed for three months as crews resurface the travel surface and complete maintenance work.
The closure got bumped up a few days due to lower traffic volumes on Sundays, said Joe Dedecker, Federal Bridge Corporation bridge director.
“Our traffic rates are significantly less on Sundays because not as many people travel then,” he said. “We are expecting that other than minor delays, we should be able to manage the traffic.”
On the newer span, one travel lane in each direction will carry traffic across the St. Clair River. Vehicles will have access to two lanes at the customs approaches at each end of the bridge.
There will be no lanes dedicated for NEXUS and F.A.S.T. motorists.
Wide loads will be restricted to less than 11 feet, and bicyclists will not be able to ride across during the construction.
About 14,600 vehicles cross the Blue Water Bridge each day.
While the numbers of lanes crossing the St. Clair River will be cut in half and NEXUS and F.A.S.T. motorists won’t have dedicated lanes, officials said wait times aren’t expected to change — although choosing to cross the border elsewhere on busy days might not be a bad idea.
MDOT Blue Water Bridge Manager Mike Szuch said travelers should expect 15- to 20-minute waits.
“We’re confident that wait times shouldn’t be any more than the average day once we put this into effect,” Szuch said. “We are working with both customs agencies to keep traffic moving in a timely manner.”
Construction is expected to be finished in early July.
Port Huron resident Richard Rylander, who traveled across the Blue Water Bridge frequently as a teenager, said repairing the bridge will be great in the long run and doesn’t believe there will be too big of an impact on either the Port Huron or Sarnia communities.
“We get a lot of Canadian shoppers over here,” he said. “I don’t think businesses will be affected too much. If anything, busy lunch hours are going to be elongated throughout the day.”
Caren Welsh, shift manager for the BP gas station at the corner of Pine Grove Avenue and Hancock Street, said that 85 percent of the station’s business comes from bridge traffic.
“It’s going to slow down traffic,” Welsh said of the construction. “Between the dollar being so low and the bridge closing, it’s going to be horrible for us.”
At the Speedway on 2621 Pine Grove Ave., manager Andy Clarke said he doesn’t believe the bridge closure will have a negative effect.
“I really think Canadians are very price-conscious shoppers,” he said. “I think if the cross-border shoppers want to get over here, they are going to find a way to get over here.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 27, 2015)