What to do? one Lima Township bridge is in bad shape


image from Google Maps

For a decade now, the Liberty Road bridge over Mill Creek in Lima Township has been closed to traffic because of its bad condition.

Now there’s a possibility that it will be completely removed.

Originally built in 1932, the bridge is located between Guenther Road and Dancer Road. It was in 1999, that the Washtenaw County Road Commission began to add load restrictions to the structure due to its deteriorating condition.

By 2011, WCRC Communications Manager Emily Kizer told The Sun Times News, “The condition had deteriorated so much that we decided to close the bridge to all traffic. It has been closed ever since.”

Closing it is one thing, safely taking it down is another, especially because it will take money.

Kizer said recently, the WCRC was approached by the Michigan Department of Transportation with a possible funding opportunity to remove the closed structure.

The WCRC presented this information and offer from MDOT to the Lima Township Board of Trustees on Nov. 9, asking for a resolution supporting the removal.

“We believe the bridge should be removed since it is a safety concern in its current deteriorating state. We had a thoughtful discussion with the Lima Township board on November 9,” Kizer said. “The WCRC Board also discussed this topic at their October 19, 2021, Working Session.”

The outcome from the Nov. 9 meeting has the WCRC waiting to see if the Lima Township Board will take action on the proposed resolution of support. Kizer said it was tabled or postponed.

In the Lima Township Supervisor’s report from October, the minutes stated: “Liberty Road bridge is part of a “bundled” bridge State finance package slated for removal by the County. Township looking into cost of maintenance, monitoring, liability of keeping bridge for pedestrians.”

Liberty Road is classified as a local road by the state, Kizer said, which means any major improvement to it, like replacing the bridge, would require at least a 50/50 financial partnership between the road commission and another entity, most often this is the township.

“We estimate that it would cost more than $1 million to replace the Liberty Road bridge,” she said.

Funding is the challenge. The opportunity with MDOT would only remove it, not replace it.

“I think the most important thing for the public to know is that this type of situation is a very good example of the challenges of road funding in Michigan,” Kizer said in answering if there is anything in particular the public should know.

“There is very little funding available for local roads like Liberty Road and that leads us to closing or adding restrict loads on aging structures,” she said. “While the recent increases to road funding, both at the state and federal level, are welcomed and needed, they will do little to improve the tough situation on local roads.”

To see the WCRC Board discuss the bridge topic at their Oct. 19, Working Session, go to: Click here for the video recording of that meeting.

Or to learn more about road funding challenges, go to the WCRC website: https://www.wcroads.org/faq/road-funding/

The old bridge is located within the squared area. image from Google Maps
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