Neighborhood, Wyandotte rankled over bridge closing

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

The Lincoln Park City Council voted to close the Harrison Street bridge for what could be up to three years. Owners of two nearby businesses said the closing not only would affect their bottom lines, but could put them out of business.

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Lincoln Park City Councilman Mario DiSanto (right) shares with the Wyandotte City Council his disappointment over his city’s closure of the Harrison bridge.

Sunday Times Newspapers

Add Wyandotte officials to the list of people unhappy with Friday’s impending closing of a bridge connecting that city to Lincoln Park.

Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson said at his City Council meeting Monday he was upset that Lincoln Park councilors voted Jan. 4 to close the bridge, which connects Harrison Street to Goddard Road over the south branch of the Ecorse Creek, before officials in his city ever got the inspection report for the bridge.

Wyandotte and Lincoln Park officials in September had discussed plans to repair the bridge, which originally was scheduled to be resurfaced. However, it turned out to be so badly damaged structurally that the resurfacing was stopped. The bridge’s northbound lane then was closed in order to limit usage.

Peterson said Wyandotte’s engineering and legal departments still are looking into the situation, in order to determine how long the bridge may be closed and what Wyandotte’s share of the repairs will be. He also said he’s concerned that since Lincoln Park declared it unsafe, officials there are imposing potential liability on Wyandotte as well as on themselves.

Wyandotte Councilman Todd Browning asked if officials in his city had received a repair estimate for the bridge, and said the Lincoln Park council’s vote to close the bridge without timely communications with Wyandotte was “disrespectful.”

The two cities collaborated in 2007 to repair a bridge along Emmons and in 2003 to coordinate concrete repairs on a portion of Goddard.

Lincoln Park City Manager Steve Duchane said Tuesday that officials had estimated it would cost about $500,000 to resurface the entire 80-foot-by-40-foot bridge, which was built in 1964. Paying that cost in light of the damage to the bridge would be a waste of money that wouldn’t fix the problem for the long term.

The cost to remove the old bridge and replace it would be anywhere from $750,000 to $1.5 million, Duchane said, with one engineer putting it at $1.1 million.

However, because Lincoln Park, like other local communities, is anticipating decreased revenues this year, officials applied to the Michigan Department of Transportation for emergency critical bridge funding. The bridge did not meet the official criteria, engineers said.

James Hollandsworth of Hennessy Engineers Inc. of Southgate, noted in a memo to Lincoln Park officials that closing the bridge for any extended length of time would “cripple” public safety and welfare of both Lincoln Park and Wyandotte. It is part of a bus route for school systems in both cities.

Lincoln Park Councilman Mariano DiSanto voted against the closing along with Councilman Thomas Murphy. DiSanto attended Wyandotte’s meeting Monday to reiterate his dissatisfaction with his council’s decision.

Lincoln Park City Manager Steve Duchane said Tuesday that he understands everyone’s dismay at the closing, but that the bridge can be fixed only if the money becomes available. He wasn’t sure what DiSanto hoped to accomplish at the Wyandotte meeting. “Certainly he has no answers,” Duchane said of DiSanto. “This is one of those things where people are trying to use this as some sort of political opportunity to talk about something when indeed it’s just a factual, administrative responsibility of officials to act prudently and properly in the interest of public safety.

“It’s not really complicated. What are you going to suggest as an alternative?”

Audience members spoke up at the Jan. 4 Lincoln Park council meeting, at which members voted 5-2 to close the bridge for what could be up to three years. Owners of nearby businesses Pizza King, 725 Harrison, and Korkis Market, 735 Harrison, said the closing not only would affect their bottom lines, but could put them out of business.

Neighborhood residents also have expressed concern. Seniors who live in Lincoln Park apartments near the bridge may face longer trips to Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital because of the closing. Also unhappy are Lincoln Park residents who moved to the nearby neighborhood to send their children to Wyandotte Public Schools through schools of choice or to take care of aging parents in Wyandotte.

Duchane said residents throughout the state should prepare themselves for similar scenarios in the near future.

“Michigan’s going to be seeing a lot of this,” he said.