40-foot bridge briefly disappears in Farmington Hills

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Farmington Hills – — The case of the missing bridge may have been cracked.

Robert Cortis was stunned when he went out to his property off Cass Street near Gill Road and found someone had made off with his 40-foot-long, 6-foot-wide, 7-foot-tall steel bridge, which has spanned Taribussi Creek for about 25 years.

He estimates the bridge, built by his father and an uncle, weighs between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds.

“I was clueless and totally freaked out,” said Cortis when he realized the bridge was gone. “Devastated.

“You’ve heard the old story of people trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge? Well, it looks like someone took my bridge and could be trying to sell it off somewhere.”

That wasn’t necessarily the case, according to Farmington Hills police.

“I can’t say if there was a crime committed here,” said Farmington Hills Police Cmdr. Matt Koehn, who wouldn’t confirm the bridge had been located late Thursday. “This might just be the result of a misunderstanding. A big misunderstanding.

“Yes, that bridge was apparently taken without his permission but it would require an actual victim to seek criminal charges and he has made it clear he’s not concerned so much about prosecution, just getting his bridge back.”

Cortis, who proudly stood on his relocated bridge in Belleville on Thursday, said his father invested $10,000 just in steel for it in the mid-1980s.

Cortis has been planning to move the bridge to other property he owns in the Whitmore Lake/Brighton area where he envisions it as an integral piece of a catering business and staged events. He said he had gone out on his property about two weeks ago and measured the bridge so he could begin looking for appropriate equipment to move it.

Apparently someone had what was needed, he said, noting he found rutted tracks from a trailer, crane and semi-truck on the property.

“I talked with some neighbors and they told me they heard and saw it being moved but figured I was behind it,” he said. “There have been people moving around here who had inquired about the bridge with neighbors, asking who owned it and whether it was for sale.”

Cortis insists he never discussed selling the bridge to anyone and turned over all the information, including potential buyers and phone numbers, to police.

“I want it for my business but there is a lot of sentimental value as well,” Cortis said. “How much is it worth? Probably between $50,000 to $75,000.”