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Failing 32 Mile Bridge could be closed for years

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

The Macomb County Department of Roads has closed a key bridge in the northern part of the county after an inspection showed it was no longer safe for motorists.

Officials closed the 32 Mile Bridge over the the north branch of the Clinton River, near Romeo Plank Road, after engineers became alarmed over the deterioration of the span since it was inspected in May.

If the county isn’t able to come up with $2 million to replace the span, it could remain closed for up to two years.

“Basically, the condition had gotten to the point that it was no longer safe to use the bridge,” said Walt Schell, deputy county highway engineer. “There is a single pier in the center of the bridge that supports two spans, one of which had settled over an inch compared to the other span. Underneath, inspectors saw corrosion of the steel beams that was far in excess of what we had seen previously.”

The bridge, which is used by up to 15,000 vehicles a day, lies at the border of Ray and Armada townships.

Many of those vehicles gas up at the Sunoco station at Romeo Plank Road.

“Our business is down 50 to 60 percent from what we were doing last week,” owner Ted Jabbori said. “It’s having a big, big effect on business. We had no advance warning from the county either. I didn’t know about it until some of my customers said the bridge was closed and they didn’t know how to get out of the area.”

Jabbori said he didn’t get any official notice until Thursday when someone from a road crew erecting barricades told him the bridge was closed at the river.

According to the county, the bridge was built in the 1920s and was last reconstructed in 1960.

“The 1960 rebuild used parts of the existing structure from 1920 but those sections didn’t fail,” Schell said. “The superstructure — the bridge beams which carry the deck over the river — is what’s in a state of disrepair.”

It will cost about $2 million to replace the span, money that the county doesn’t have, according to Schell.

“It’s been on our list of structures in need of attention for quite a while,” Schell said.

“We applied for replacement funds in 2013 and 2014, but it wasn’t selected for funding. We’re looking to again ask for funding for this structure.”

On Friday, construction crews were driving posts into the roadway to keep motorists from using the bridge.

“The first day people were driving up not believing that the road was closed,” Schell said.

On Friday, crews were putting up more permanent roadblocks since motorists had moved the temporary ones and drove across the bridge.

The official detour has motorists taking Van Dyke (M-53) to 29 Mile and then back to Romeo Plank.

The county is looking at ways to shore up the bridge or possibly erect some kind of temporary span.

“But we only closed the bridge on Wednesday so to offer anything at this point would be pure conjecture,” Schell said. “But we will start looking at new bridge designs in case we do receive funding.”

In the meantime, Jabbori is trying to find a way to get customers back into his station.

“But what can you do if no one is passing by your door?” he said.

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