Macomb County announces bridge plan, scolds Lansing

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Ray Township — Macomb County officials met Tuesday to voice their displeasure over the lack of road funding coming from Lansing while announcing plans to replace a barricaded bridge with a plan of their own.

Attended by Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, the outdoor press conference was held at the 32 Mile Bridge over the Clinton River on the border of Ray and Armada townships. Officials closed the 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 2014.

Backed by local township supervisors, Hackel and Macomb County Department of Roads Supervisor Bob Hoepfner said Tuesday that the lack of road funding was due to lack of money and leadership on the part of Lansing.

“The reality is we had to close this bridge because it was a safety issue, but the other reality is that the funding problem has been ignored by the Legislature for years, both here and for the entire state,” Hackel said.

Last week, the Michigan House adjourned for a three-week summer recess after failing to reach a deal on generating an extra $1.2 billion annually for the state’s crumbling roads.

According to Hoepfner, the 32 Mile Bridge, which was used by up to 15,000 vehicles a day, will be replaced by early next summer, either through the use of state-approved emergency funds or by borrowing money from future projects that have already been funded.

“The replacement of this bridge is unfunded at this time,” said Hoepfner, who estimated it would cost $2.5 million for engineering and construction of the new span. “As soon as we were forced to close the bridge, we applied for funding through the Local Bridge Fund, but we will have to wait until November to find out if our application was accepted. If it’s not, we’ll have to allocate funds from other projects in order to replace this bridge.”

Macomb County budgets about $40 million per year on roads, bridges and traffic signals, he said.

According to Ray Township Supervisor Charles Bohm, the bridge replacement is critical for the safety of area residents.

“Currently, we have four bridges which are closed due to safety issues: 27, 28, 30 and 32 Mile roads,” Bohm said. “We only have two bridges open for police, fire, EMS and other first responders: 26 and 29 Mile roads. ... So far, no one has been in danger, but it has caused slower response times.”

Washington Township Supervisor Dan O’Leary said the bridge issue also has impacted area businesses.

“There’s a safety issue but also a commerce issue,” O’Leary said. “It’s time for those in the Legislature to put politics aside, reach down deep inside and come up with a solution.”