Free bridge to Grosse Ile closing for construction
Grosse Ile — The Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge will close for repairs and rehabilitation at 9 a.m. May 6, launching a project that is scheduled to continue to December.
Work on the bridge over the Trenton Channel will briefly overlap construction on a Jefferson Avenue bridge on the route from there to the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge, the other entryway to the largest island in Grosse Ile Township.
A nine-day emergency shutdown of the Parkway bridge in November prompted hour-long back-ups at the toll bridge and reports of road-rage incidents, though toll bridge owner Paul Smoke said the backups and tempers eased after a few days.
"Given the timing," Smoke said, with COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in place at least through May 15, "it's going to be manageable."
Grosse Ile Township trustee James Budny acknowledged that the project will be an inconvenience, but "when you live on an island, you know you're going to have to put up with that."
An original proposal called for work to be done in stages on the parkway bridge and a much smaller bridge just to the Grosse Ile side of it, Budny said. The township asked instead that everything be handled at once.
"It's a 90-year-old bridge. Things have to be done," he said. "People say, 'Why can't you work on it from midnight to 5 a.m.?' That just can't happen."
In a statement from Wayne County, director of public services Beverly Watts acknowledged that "we’re in the midst of unprecedented times."
Nevertheless, she said, "we have a responsibility to the citizens of Grosse Ile to uphold our commitment to improve the Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge."
Opened for traffic in 1932 and reconstructed in 2007, what's commonly known as the "free bridge" was built for railroad use in 1873. Its brief closure in 2019 came after an inspection that led to the installation of 10 steel plates supporting four floor beams.
The county said then that more extensive work would follow. Goals include expanding the current weight restriction of 26 tons, the equivalent of a full garbage truck.
The overlapping Jefferson Avenue project involves the bridge over Monguagon Creek southwest of the toll bridge. That job is scheduled from Thursday to May 8 and will leave one lane open in each direction, the county said.
During the longer parkway bridge project, the toll road will become the only access point for the 10,000-plus residents of Grosse Ile. The toll is $2.50 for two-axle vehicles each way, $3.50 with a credit card, or $2 with a pre-purchased pass. Fees are collected for both directions before entry to the island.
The toll bridge typically handles about 25% of traffic across the channel. Coronavirus limitations "have been a large hit," Smoke said, "but I've kept my employees going," with new part-timers subbing for long-term workers kept home by health vulnerabilities or family obligations.
"Typically, when closures of the county bridge have occurred, people aren't prepared for the first day or two ..." he said. Given a full complement of 13 workers and fewer cars on the road, he said, he expects an easier transition come May 6.
The emergency closure of the free bridge in November prompted a backlog of orders for toll bridge passes.
"We're starting to see last-minute applications," he said, but "we're processing them on a daily basis, as fast as they come in."
The county offered two recommendations for rerouted traffic:
•Into Grosse Ile Township from Trenton, detour at Grosse lle Parkway and Jefferson, proceed northbound to West Jefferson toward Bridge Road for access to the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge.
•From Grosse Ile Township into Trenton, detour at Meridian Road and proceed northbound for access to the Grosse Ile Toll Bridge.