Bridge needs updates; funding an issue

ALPENA – The Bagley Street Bridge, which crosses the Thunder Bay River in Alpena, was erected in 1977 and is in need of a great deal of repair. In an effort to get funding to help put a new deck and multi-use paths on the current structure is currently under way.

The Alpena County Road Commission plans to apply for funding that could be granted in 2016 to have the work done. On Monday a preliminary design plan was unveiled and input was received as to what a new bridge should contain for motorists and pedestrians.

R.A. Scott & Associates presented an early concept design that would consist of a two-lane deck, one lane would be 16 feet and another 12 feet with a four-foot shoulder. The path on the west side of the bridge would be 12 feet wide and be used for snowmobiles in the winter, while the east side would have a 10 foot, multi-use path. Both sides would be multi-use paths in the non-winter months.

Scott Pawloski, a professional engineer for R.A. Scott, said the road commission was looking at just making some repairs to the bridge, but the price tag would have been about $800,000. He said that’s when it was decided to explore ideas to get enough money to replace a large portion of it and make it more feasible for what is needed of it today. Pawloski said a lot of the metrics used when the bridge was designed in the 1970s have changed and the use of the bridge is much more than what is was designed for.

“The road commission hired us to basically come up with a superstructure replacement,” Pawloski said. “When this bridge was built it was on a new route and there was no traffic patterns to really base the construction plans on and it may have been underdesigned. I provided some initial sketches for somewhere to start.”

As the conversation progressed on how wide the driving lanes should be and how much room should be allowed for the multi-use paths, City Engineer Rich Sullenger said it may be wise to allow enough room on the bridge to have three lanes because of the possibility of economic growth on or near the M-32 and Bagley Street corridor.

“I’ve been hearing rumbling on some potential development that could generate a lot of traffic in that area,” Sullenger said. “I think with any improvements, not just the bridge, we have a responsibility to look down the road and make sure we’re being proactive. We might not have the need right now, but in the future there will be. I think it is important to talk about future development and future capacities of what the bridge could be.”

The application for funding is due on May 1 and will be submitted to the Regional Bridge Authority, which will forward a recommendation to the State of Michigan. The funding, if approved, would not be received until 2016 and according to road commission Managing Director Larry Orcutt a significant match would be needed. He said the match would be more than the road commission could handle by itself and partnerships would need to be formed to help raise the money or contributions.

“We are trying to accommodate several different parties who have interests in this new structure and it is important for us to have local support both verbally and financially from the structure,” Orcutt said. “Those things are considered during the grant process.”

Pawloski said R.A. Scott does not have a projection on what the cost of the bridge would be, but said it will have another draft plan with some alterations discussed Monday. He said he will have a cost estimate before the grant application is submitted.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at