MDOT: Grand Haven drawbridge fix working well

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — As hundreds of thousands of cars get ready to cross the drawbridge in Grand Haven this holiday weekend, the Michigan Department of Transportation says upgrades to prevent the bridge from stalling are working well.

“The bridge is fully operational for the holidays. It’s fine right now,” Christopher Idusuyi, a structures emergency response engineer with MDOT, said Wednesday.

On an average day, about 60,000 cars pass over the Grand Haven drawbridge, MDOT says. On peak summer holidays, it’s more like 120,000 cars per day.

Last Memorial Day weekend was the first time the drawbridge got stuck going down, causing a massive traffic backup. The bridge malfunctioned several times after that.

Since then, MDOT has made upgrades and tested opening and closing the bridge between 40 and 50 times with no problems, it says. In fact, officials say, the bridge now opens and closes more quickly.

“From traffic light to traffic light, seven minutes. It goes a little bit faster. It was usually nine (minutes) before. And we never did this to try and make this go faster — it’s just one of the benefits that goes with it,” Shawn Wigent, a master electrician with MDOT, said.

At the core of the problems was a malfunction in the part that signals to the control board that the bridge is closed. That part was showing the bridge was closed when it wasn’t, which would prevent the operator from opening it. Operators would have to call someone out to fix it. Now there is a new bypass switch that the operator can flip to tell the bridge to go all the way down.

“Between the bypasses and the auxiliary, everything that’s installed, I don’t believe we can be stuck. I believe we can get this thing down,” Wigent said.

While MDOT says it is confident everything will run smoothly this busy summer season, it stopped short of making any promises.

“Of course we can’t guarantee there won’t be any issues because this is a movable bridge and it’s old. It definitely has its issues, but statistically speaking it is quite reliable,” MDOT spokesman John Richard said.

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