MDOT looking into replacing East Main St. bridgePublished 11:40pm Monday, May 3, 2010
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is currently conducting an environmental assessment for the proposed replacement of the historic East Main Street bridge over the St. Joseph River in Niles.
MDOT has planned a public meeting on Thursday to present the problems with the 91-year-old structure, propose possible solutions and welcome public feedback. The meeting, which will be the first of several, will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Niles City Council Chambers, 1345 East Main St.
Bob Parsons, Public Involvement and Hearings Officer for MDOT, said the bridge was rehabilitated in 1996 but deterioration has continued.
“The main factor is the deterioration of the bridge in the scouring that is an undercutting of the foundation of the bridge,” he said.
Parsons stressed that the bridge is currently safe but is a “long-term issue that if not addressed could become a problem.”
Because it is an historic bridge, Parsons says MDOT has to follow certain protocol, including welcoming input from the public throughout the process.
Parsons said at the public meeting residents can sign up to be on a mailing list to stay up to date on developments of the project.
The environmental assessment won’t be completed until about a year from now, as engineers examine the alignment and foundation of the bridge, among many other factors.
City Administrator Terry Eull said safety is the main issue.
“When referenced with historic things, like city hall, obviously you want to maintain them,” Eull said. “But a bridge is a different thing. A bridge needs to be structurally sound. There is a lot of traffic on that bridge.”
Public Works Director Neil Coulston has been in contact with MDOT regularly about the bridge and says the engineers are “doing their homework.”
“They’re at a point where making repairs to it are very expensive,” he said.
If the replacement of the bridge is approved and funded, Coulston said MDOT is targeting 2014 or 2015 to have the project begun.