City to tackle two more bridge projects this year
With delays potentially pushing the completion of the West Front Street Bridge to July or August this year and the rebuilding of Grandview Parkway from March 2023, Traverse City leaders are trying to incorporate two other bridge projects planned for this year. – the repair of the North Cass Street and South Union Street Bridges – without overlapping with these other projects.
Board members of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) received an update on the bridge projects at their meeting on Friday. According to DDA CEO Jean Derenzy, the West Front Street Bridge – under construction and originally scheduled to be completed in June – could now take until July or August to complete. This is due to a trio of delays, including physical delays (which have impacted construction projects across the country), winter weather delays, and construction issues.
“We had a lot of trouble getting (the piles) to the depth needed to support the bridge,” said Kaitlyn Aldrich, administrative assistant for municipal engineering. She said the city had removed about 500 tons of boulders from the riverbank that were preventing the piles from being properly placed. “On top of that, once we got there, the sediments weren’t as stable as expected, so we had to make… some last minute design changes to add more piles.”
Aldrich noted that the city’s original construction schedule called for a shutdown period during the winter, but said the shutdown would likely be eliminated now to keep the project on track. Derenzy said she had spoken to City Engineer Tim Lodge and was pushing for the bridge to be completed by July, but said she wanted to be “realistic that it could be delayed” until ‘in August.
Meanwhile, after completing three more bridge projects last year – including Park, Eighth and South Cass streets – city staff are gearing up to tackle two more bridge projects this year: the repairs to North Cass Street and South Cass Street. Union Street Bridges. Unlike West Front Street, none of the bridges are a complete reconstruction project; instead, the bridge deck will be replaced at both locations. Aldrich said the foundations of both bridges will remain intact and workers are “not doing any work in the water.”
The North Cass Street Bridge, an $800,000 project, will include replacement and widening of sidewalks from five feet to over eight feet, a new bridge ramp and pedestrian scale lighting. The project will also improve ground clearance under the bridge. “It’s pretty tight in there for river users,” Aldrich said. She noted that the city could only lift the bridge a few inches or risk falling out of alignment with adjacent lanes, but said the improvement would be even more comfortable for river users.
The South Union Street Bridge, a $1.7 million project, will include replacing and widening sidewalks from eight feet to almost ten feet, new railings – including a pedestrian railing at the approach to the deck and a historic balustrade treatment on the outer edge – and downlighting to illuminate the walkway. Aldrich compared the lighting to that of the Pine Street Pedestrian Bridge, saying it would only be waist-deep and not reflect in the river. Parking spaces will be removed from the bridge to make way for the expanded sidewalks. The Boardman River will be closed under both bridges on weekdays during construction, but will be open on weekends and holidays between Memorial Day and October 20.
Although long planned and tied to state funding, both bridge projects come at a precarious time in the city’s construction work. Originally intended to be completed by November this year, the projects will now likely go up for auction in May, have a summer start date and potentially continue into next spring. This is partly due to steel shortages, with Aldrich saying steel orders are about six months behind schedule. Work could begin on the bridges, but material delays – such as on the western front – could lengthen projects.
Aldrich firmly said Friday that the city would not begin work on South Union Street until the West Front Street Bridge was completed. However, work on North Cass could potentially overlap with West Front. DDA board member Jeff Joubran said he opposed starting work on any other downtown bridges until the West Front reopens. Derenzy agreed that would be ideal, but pointed out that the city faces another deadline: the start of the Grandview Parkway reconstruction in March 2023.
“Trust me, I get it,” she told Joubran. “(But) having bridges over Grandview Parkway would be detrimental. We cannot have bridges pulled down when Grandview Parkway is under construction. That’s too much.” Board Vice Chairman Scott Hardy asked if the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) had any flexibility in its Grandview Parkway start date, saying the potential overlap of projects “would create an economic divide around downtown Traverse City. There are serious economic implications to the timing of these things. Derenzy, however, said the state appears firm in its timing, with Aldrich adding that the MDOT indicated that Grandview Parkway simply could not be delayed for a year to accommodate the city’s projects.If there was a delay, Grandview Parkway would be pushed back to 2029 or 2030 on the state’s project list, he said. she declared.
In addition to the DDA review of the bridge work, the planning commissioners also discussed the bridges this week, unanimously agreeing that the projects are in line with the city’s master plan. Aldrich said Friday that city staff are doing their best to consider all planning factors and impacts, including not only Grandview Parkway reconstruction and physical delays, but the risk of having one or more several bridges for an entire winter and maybe even bumping into the National Cherry Festival, as will be the case this year with West Front. “We will continue to work hard … and take (all these things) into consideration, and we will do our best,” she said.