KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A pair of bridges along a major highway in Kalamazoo will join the growing list of construction projects in West Michigan.
Towering over KL Avenue, the bridges in question are a part of US-131 between the Main Street and Stadium Drive exits.
Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa said technological improvements allowed crews and inspectors to extend the bridges’ lifespan and usability, but they are now really showing their age.
“We’re talking about bridges that are more than a half-century old and probably had a 25- to 30-year design life, so we’re well past that,” Schirripa explained.
He added the new replacements will have a 75-year design life.
“If we were putting a calendar together with pictures of our best bridges, that’s not going to make March. It’s not going to be one of our greatest, but it’s not a threat. It’s not in danger,” Schirripa continued. “We’ve been patching patches of patches that we patched five years ago, for years. It’s not new. People who’ve driven over that know that.”
Beginning mid-2023, crews will begin demolishing and replacing the bridges. Before then, a temporary third bridge will be built to help continue two-lane traffic in each direction.
“If we shut down northbound to rebuild that bridge, we’ll use that temporary bridge for northbound traffic … and then vice versa for southbound traffic when we’re rebuilding the southbound bridge,” Schirripa explained.
Below the bridges, KL Avenue will be shut down presumably from 11th Street to Concord Place Drive. Schirripa said likely detours for through traffic could be Main Street and Stadium Drive, but those would have to be finalized by Kalamazoo County.
Another hurdle for crews is that MDOT owns the bridges, Kalamazoo County owns KL Avenue below and Amtrak owns the tracks running parallel to the road, which could be a logistical nightmare with the high-speed passenger trains zipping through daily.
“That’s not something we really want to mess with – not just schedule-wise, but that’s a liability,” Schirripa said. “Certainly, we want to make sure we’re doing our part right. Amtrak wants to make sure that they’re doing their part right. We want to make sure we’re moving in the right direction at the same time.”
An Amtrak spokesperson said they do not comment on projects but confirmed to News 8 this one is set to move forward on their end.
Once the contractors are assigned and work starts next year, the project is expected to be finished by spring 2025.