BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Transportation says upgrading the battered 100th Street bridge in southern Kent County will carry a $10 million price tag.
With MDOT’s funding for the next five years spoken for, the agency is still trying to figure out where to find the money to get the project moving.
“We’re confident we can find the funding,” MDOT spokesman John Richard said. “When you’ve got a project like this where all of the sudden you’ve got to replace a bridge you did not expect to replace, that’s an additional $10 to 15 million you have to find.”
The agency laid out its plans for the overpass in a Thursday public meeting at the Byron Township Hall.
Probably the most important improvement will be raising the bridge clearance — currently around 14 feet, which is unusually low — to 16 feet, 3 inches. The goal is to decrease the number of semi-trucks hitting the bridge deck as they travel along US-131.
“There are 60 other MDOT bridges that are as high as this bridge or lower, but for some reason this one keeps getting hit,” Richard said.
MDOT’s preliminary plans also include a four-lane bridge and wider lanes on the surrounding on- and off-ramps to better accommodate semis. The widening may affect nearby businesses and and homes, but the extent to which that could happen remains to seen. More will be known when the project enters the design phase next year.
“Everyone knows it’s got to be widened and higher up,” truck driver Bob Marsh said of the bridge at the meeting. “The biggest thing I got about that bridge, it’s when you get off the southbound exit ramp or the northbound to come back across 131 when there’s a lot of traffic, you can’t make that turn, not with a big truck.”
There has been an uptick in strikes at the 100th Street bridge this year. It’s not entirely clear why they’ve started happening with such frequency, although the most popular explanation is that there are more inexperienced truckers on the roads and they aren’t checking their load heights or the heights of bridges along their routes. MDOT and Michigan State Police have partnered to tighten load height enforcement on US-131 in an attempt to prevent bridge hits.
If all goes according to plan, the new bridge would go up in 2020.
“This is a very busy interchange. It’s getting busier. You’ve got the outlet mall, the casino. It’s a growing area, so we want to bring this bridge up to current standards as soon as we can,” Richard said.