Ferrysburg bridge is so bad it has to close

Ottawa County

FERRYSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — A bridge used by people in the Spring Lake and Ferrysburg area is in such bad shape that officials have decided to close it.

The 450-foot long bridge goes over Smith’s Bayou, off Spring Lake.

Map of Smith's Bridge in Ferrysburg

While there has been a bridge there for more than a century — the current one was built in 1972. About 6,000 cars a day go over it.

“This has been an icon for the area. Many people reference Smith’s Bridge, including boaters and visitors that come to the area,” said Ferrysburg Mayor Rebecca Hopp.

People use it to go from Ferrysburg to Spring Lake and Grand Haven.

“This way they avoid using the highway, they can come and use the local street,” said Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger.

An inspection in 2016 revealed that the beams that hold the bridge up are not working properly, causing the pavement to crack.

“There’s no repair for those, they got to be replaced,” Bessinger said.

Vehicles could damage the pavement, which could impact the structural integrity of the beams.

“A car’s going to hit that box beam, a tire is going to go in there and someone’s going to get hurt,” Bessinger said.

The beams are bad and the piers that hold the beams are also subpar.

“To replace this is around $13 million — that’s with engineering,” Bessinger said.

Voters in the city of Ferrysburg defeated a millage request in 2017 by a vote of 607-355, which would have raised money from its fewer than 3,000 residents to fix the bridge.

The city has repaved the bridge and added support to the beams. However, those are not sufficient to keep the bridge open, according to the city.

“Both Spring Lake and Grand Haven Public utilize this bridge multiple times during the day,” Hopp said. “So, besides the vehicular traffic that goes over this, it affects the community at large.”

The city is working to find grants from the state and federal governments, but it hasn’t been successful so far.

“The issue is the state doesn’t have enough money to go around and to give one community $13 million is just not working out,” Besssinger said.

The bridge closing will be an inconvenience for residents, but for emergency responders — it is a more serious issue.

“I’m anticipating three to six minutes,” said Ferrysburg Fire Chief Michael Olthof. “In any type of residential structure, that fire doubles in size every minute. So, every minute that it takes to get there — that fire’s doubling in size on us.”

The bridge is used by both Ferrysburg and Spring Lake fire departments, which already divert some trucks around the bridge because it is so unsound.

“I think it’s a public safety issue. Not just for us, but for our neighboring townships. Everybody is going to have to go around and it’s going to delay us all,” Olthof said.

The bridge will close to vehicles as soon as barricades and signage become available, the city manager says.

It will remain open to bikes and pedestrians.

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