University of Michigan fears failed bridge could limit access to hospital
ANN ARBOR, MI – With the main access bridge to the Michigan Medicine Complex in Ann Arbor deteriorating, University of Michigan officials hope to avoid a repeat of what happened to another pair of bridges in the city over ten years ago.
After postponing repair or replacement of the crumbling bridges on East Stadium Boulevard near Michigan Stadium, an engineering company warned the city in 2009 that there was a risk of concrete the size of concrete pieces. ‘a soccer ball falls on the people below.
After an inspection of the bridge revealed problems with at least one of the girders, traffic was reduced in 2009 to one lane in each direction and it remained that way for almost three years before the city finally rebuilt both. spans at a cost of approximately $ 23 million.
Now the focus is on the East Medical Center Drive bridge leading from Fuller Road over the railroad tracks to the busy college medical complex.
College planner Sue Gott recalled the stadium bridges saga at a city council meeting last month as council members expressed hesitation over a million dollar design contract for the rehabilitation and widening the East Medical Center Drive bridge, a project that could ultimately cost more than $ 8 million.
Ann Arbor officials question Michigan Medicine’s proposed bridge widening
“I just want to make sure people understand that one of our concerns is the potential – with the next deck inspection if further deterioration is found – that weight restrictions could be put in place,” he said. Gott told city officials. “And while we certainly hope it won’t, and the staff felt pretty comfortable about it, we also know you’ll want to maintain a good, safe and functional bridge.”
Describing the bridge as “in dire straits” and “in failure,” Michael Rein, UM’s director of community relations, said UM approached it with a sense of urgency.
Acting city administrator John Fournier pushed back on this, saying residents shouldn’t worry about the condition of the bridge or think it is failing.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, The Ann Arbor News / MLive recently obtained a copy of the city’s latest inspection report, showing the East Medical Center Drive Bridge, built in 1982, filed in a state ” Wrong “. The inspection was carried out in October 2020 and the report was issued in February.
“The general condition of the structure is poor,” the report said, noting that the expansion joints above the pillars were in poor condition and the pillars were in fair to poor condition. âDue to the poor condition of the north pier crown, the bridge deck and leaking deck joints, it is recommended that the inspection frequency be maintained at 12 months. “
This makes the bridge due for another inspection this month to assess its current condition.
Gott recalled that the weight restrictions limited the use of the old stadium bridges due to poor conditions. If this happens at the East Medical Center Drive bridge, it could be very difficult for inpatients and ambulances, she said.
âSo that’s one of the reasons I think we’re excited to see the work move forward,â she said.
After hearing the concerns from the university, the council voted 9-2 on September 20 to postpone the review of the bridge design contract until October 18, with only council members Elizabeth Nelson and Jeff Hayner having attended. opposed to postponement.
Other council members expressed concerns over the widening of the bridge, which carries a four-lane highway over the Amtrak rail line. They want to see more justification for it, other than the simple UM saying it wants it widened for vehicles entering and exiting the medical center and for a possible future widening of the road.
Nelson, D-4th Ward, said last week she shared UM’s concerns about delayed repairs and being left with another situation like old stadium bridges.
The city is at the very end of a long process of working with UM and “it is pulling the rug out from under the project at the last possible second,” she said.
The potential need for future road widening should be addressed now as part of the bridge rehabilitation, says Nelson. Debates about how that width is used – whether space for more car traffic or non-motorized uses – can take place later, she said.
“It is absurd to question this plan based on widespread opposition to the widening of roads,” she said.
Mayor Christopher Taylor did not respond to a request for comment.
Council member Jen Eyer, D-4th Ward, argued last month that widening roads flies in the face of the city’s Vision Zero goals to improve road safety and A2Zero climate action goals. from the city.
The last inspection report indicated that the concrete deck of the bridge was in fair condition, but showed multiple cracks, with the north span in the worst condition.
The structural steel was found to be in fair condition overall, but in poor condition at several ends of the beams. The pillars were found to be in good condition but with hairline cracks.
Problems with the pillars should be watched closely and the addition of temporary supports may be warranted, engineering firm DLZ Michigan Inc. told the city.
“We understand that a rehabilitation project is currently under study for this structure but is also on hold,” he said. “There are several repairs that should be completed in the short term (rated as high priority, below) if a major reconstruction or rehabilitation project is postponed beyond 1 to 2 years (beyond 2021-2022 ). “
This includes the removal and replacement of expansion and construction joints, replacement of the north pier cap, repair of the substructure, painting of the structural steel, and removal of the overgrowth of the vegetation.
The recommended repairs could cost around $ 3.9 million, according to the report.
The additional cost of widening the bridge would be covered by the UM, while the city and UM would share the rehabilitation costs 50-50, city engineer Nick Hutchinson said last month, telling council that the project is targeted for 2023.
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