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Rainy River in Presque Isle County will receive $1.5M for rebuilding bridge

December 20, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

NORTH ALLIS TOWNSHIP - A state grant program has approved $1.5 million to rebuild a bridge over the Rainy River on a Presque Isle County road north of Onaway.

The Michigan Department of Transportation's Local Bridge Program has approved the grant for 2015, Presque Isle County Road Commission Superintendent Jerry Smigelski said. The money will rebuild a bridge on County Road 489 dating from 1930, which has deteriorated to the point where a weight restriction already in place is expected to be downgraded in 2013.

R.S. Scott Associates in Alpena will design the new bridge, Smigelski said. While the project's specifics have yet to be determined, it's likely the road will be kept open during construction, either by replacing one lane at a time or by putting in a temporary bridge.

The area is "quite heavily populated, especially in the summer with all the cottages there," he said.

Currently, the bridge has a weight restriction of 54 tons, Smigelski said. Most new bridges can handle 80. Aside from handling the new bridge project, R.S. Scott inspects all 27 bridges in the county every two years to check their structural integrity.

While the cement deck is visibly deteriorating, the extent of the bridge's decay is more visible underneath, R.S. Scott staff engineer Scott Pawloski said.

"If you go under that bridge, it's steel beams carrying concrete deck, steel piers, steel piling," he said. "All of that is rusting away."

The bridge will be replaced by the current standard: precast concrete beams, a reinforced concrete deck and a guard rail, Pawloski said. Any pedestrian lane would have an additional guard rail separating foot traffic and vehicle traffic.

Since the cost would account for more than half of the road commission's annual operating budget, the grant request received special consideration, Pawloski said.

The county will pay engineering costs, and 5 percent of the grant amount, or roughly $75,000, Smigelski said.

As the review and design phase progresses, the plan is to involve the public in the bridge's design, Pawloski. The current bridge has no shoulders and lies in a stretch of road with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour, and the new bridge ideally would accommodate pedestrians and anglers. Plans for public involvement are still in the works.

Another design consideration will be the fact that some people ride their boats under the bridge to get to Black Lake a short distance away, Pawloski said. There are currently no plans to lower the bridge from its current height.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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