Rochester Hills Bridge Fix Hopeful for Next Year

Take two bridges, just around the corner from each other. Put them smack dab in the center of busy Rochester Hills. Partially close them both due to safety concerns, and what do you get?

Angry drivers.

Bridges over the Clinton River on Avon and Livernois are down to single lanes in each direction, causing backups and delays. Lane and weight restrictions were imposed by the Road Commission for Oakland County due to serious deterioration of concrete beams. 

Shahrokh Mansoori, a physician at Crittenton Hospital, was rushing to what he called a “semi-emergency” recently when he got stuck in traffic caused by the partial closure.

“It is congested even in the middle of the day,” Mansoori said. “It really is a major issue.” Paramedics he’s talked to at the hospital agree. Not fixing the bridges now, he said, is “stupid.”

The Road Commission for Oakland County, which owns the bridges, says both are deteriorating rapidly. The Avon bridge, located just east of Livernois, is rated one of the two worst bridges in the county. Built in 1963 and widened in 1972, the westbound outside lane was closed in 2009 and weight restrictions were imposed. An inspection in January of this year found additional deterioration.

Right around the corner, the Livernois bridge, just south of Avon, got its own weight restrictions in 2010. Built in 1972, it’s of the same type of construction–concrete box beams–as the Avon bridge and suffering from the same beam problems.

Replacing the bridges is estimated at $2.5 million each. Most of the money (95 percent) will come from the Michigan Local Bridge Program, using a combination of state and federal funds. Funds are awarded by two regional boards which rate all bridges in southeast Michigan.

Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said the best-case scenario would be to have both bridges replaced in 2012. So far, funding has only been secured for the Avon bridge. But several factors have come together to get pushed a year earlier than originally expected which could also spell good news for the Livernois bridge.

Originally announced for 2013, the Avon bridge replacement was moved up a year because other projects came in under budget, city traffic engineer Paul Shumejko said. Once that happened, the city, for the first time ever, agreed to advance the road commission the money for the design phase of the project. 

 “Last year, it was not at all clear that we would be able to replace the Avon bridge in 2012,” road commissioner Ronald Fowkes said in a statement released by the commission. “This agreement helps to ensure that the replacement will happen.”

Barnett said he expects to find out about funding for the Livernois bridge in September.  Money won’t be advanced for design until a construction grant is awarded.

“When it’s not yours, without some sort of agreement to pay you back, you can’t risk it,” Barnett said. He added that the road commission is confident the project will be funded.

“We’re going to be pushing like crazy to get them both done next year,” he said. “We have been diligent about doing everything we can to get this moved up.”

At a recent event at the Older Persons Commission, “Just about every table was, ‘What’s going on with the bridges?’” Barnett said. “Hopefully we’ve been successful in telling people it’s not our project.”

Since he both lives and works in the immediate vicinity, “The chances of me stopping at it are pretty good,” Barnett said. “It’ll be great once it’s done.”

By Annette Kingsbury

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