Long-awaited bridge repair not ‘guaranteed’ for this year

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Reconstruction of the Harrison Street bridge over the Ecorse Creek is scheduled to begin in 2013, but could begin as early as this year.

Sunday Times Newspapers

A bridge between neighborhoods in two adjoining communities could be back in service this year — or not.

Officials in Lincoln Park and Wyandotte recently reached an agreement to share costs for design, construction oversight and repairs to the Harrison Street bridge over the south branch of the Ecorse Creek. Lincoln Park closed the bridge last January after finding structural deterioration that officials deemed unsafe.

The agreement came in response to a deadline given by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which will pay 95 percent of the rebuilding costs. MDOT representatives had told officials in both cities that the $1.4 million project was scheduled to take place in 2013 through the department’s Local Agency Bridge Program, but Lincoln Park City Manger Steve Duchane asked late last year to move up construction to this year or 2012.

After the Wyandotte City Council approved the cost-sharing agreement last week, and Lincoln Park approved it Tuesday, published reports quoted officials as saying the project was a go for this year.

MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said Thursday, however, that the optimism may be premature.

“Right now it’s still slated for 2013,” he said. “It has not been moved to 2011, although that may occur.

“We understand how much they want this bridge replaced, and we know what it means for them to have it replaced, so we’re going to do everything we can to move it up to 2011, but at this time there’s no guarantee.”

Wyandotte City Engineer Mark Kowalewski announced to Mayor Joseph Peterson and the City Council Jan. 10 that MDOT had recommended financing for the project. Kowalewski declined to comment Thursday when told the project may not go forward this year. A spokeswoman for Peterson, however, said Friday that officials still believe that it will.

Duchane said he was not surprised to learn there was a chance the project may not be rescheduled.

“Everybody hedges their bets in this business,” he said. “That’s fine with me. That’s better than saying, ‘no way.’”

Duchane said MDOT gave his city a Feb. 11 deadline to reach an agreement with Wyandotte for local financing and engineering in order for the project to be considered for rescheduling to this year. Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Associates will perform the inspection once that happens.

The Local Agency program funds projects in seven regions across the state, Morosi said, encompassing hundreds of municipalities. Before the Harrison bridge project can ascend the list, he said, there must be an area or project where the local funding match does not come about.

“If that happens, there is some flexibility to move some projects up,” Morosi said.

Under the agreement approved by the two cities, each will cover half of up to $68,000 in design costs and half of up to $68,000 construction inspection costs. They also will split the 5 percent, $57,000 local share of the construction costs.

“I’m sorry that the signals got mixed up,” Morosi said of the reports earlier in the week saying the project would be done this year.

“We’re going to do everything we can to move it up to 2011, but at this time there’s no guarantee.”

Local store owners on the Lincoln Park side of the bridge say the closing has affected many.

“It’s hurting a lot of people besides just us,” said Steve Shaya, manager of Korkis Market, 735 Harrison. “Our business is 50, 60 percent down. I’ve been calling (city officials) every day. The sooner (it’s fixed) the better for everybody’s sake.”

An employee next door at Pizza King, 725 Harrison, declined to speak on the record but said its business also has declined significantly since the closure.

(Andrea Poteet contributed to this report.)