Sixth Street Bridge in Grand Rapids

Built for Horses Sixth Street Bridge Grand Rapids

Built for Horses, photo by Rudy Malmquist

News that the Michigan Department of Transportation is testing drones for bridge inspection reminded me that I was asked to share more of were “bridges other than than the Mackinac Bridge.”

Historicbridges.org is an excellent resource, and their entry for the Sixth Street Bridge in Grand Rapids begins:

The Sixth Street Bridge, with its long 544 foot length excellent physical condition, is a fitting tribute to its builder, the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon Ohio. Constructed in 1886, this bridge is made of wrought iron. This bridge is one of the most important historic bridges in the entire state of Michigan, since it is the longest pin-connected highway truss in the state. Also, Michigan only has a few truss bridges that are more than one span in length, and most of those are two spans. A four span bridge in Michigan is thus extremely rare for its unusually long length, for Michigan. The bridge is also significant for the length of its individual spans. The bridge has three spans that are 154 feet in length. This is a very long span length for a pin-connected Pratt truss, and is among the longest in Michigan.

…Construction of the bridge began in 1885, when the piers and abutments were constructed. These, with approaches, cost $11,084.95. The wrought iron truss superstructure was erected in 1886 by the Massillon Bridge Company of Massillon, Ohio, costing $20,281. This made the total cost of the bridge $31,365.95.

Read on for much more.

Rudy adds that this is the oldest metal bridge in Michigan. View his photo bigger and see more in his Neutral Density slideshow.

More bridges on Michigan in Pictures.

Line 5 and the Great Lakes

Mackinaw-City-and-Mackinac-Bridge

Mackinaw City and Mackinac Bridge, photo by Sandy Hansen Photography 

“There is a pipeline that‘s sitting at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. It was designed for a 50 year life and it’s been down there for 63 years. There’s a risk involved in this.”
-Mark Shriberg, National Wildlife Federation

In Line 5 puts Great Lakes at risk on Absolute Michigan via the University of Michigan (video below):

Up to 152 miles (245 km) of coastline in lakes Huron and Michigan could be fouled by a single oil spill at the straits, according to the simulations. When all 840 simulated spills are plotted on a map, a total of 720 miles (1,162 km) of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada are considered potentially vulnerable to spills that would require cleanup. Seven hundred twenty miles is roughly the distance from Detroit to Atlanta.

Areas at highest risk include Mackinac and Bois Blanc islands, as well as locations directly east and west of Mackinaw City. Communities also at risk include Beaver Island, Cross Village, Harbor Springs, Cheboygan and other places along the lakes Huron-Michigan shoreline.

…”Until now, no one knew exactly how much shoreline was vulnerable to spills in the Straits of Mackinac,” said Schwab, a research scientist at the U-M Water Center. “These findings show that under the right conditions, a spill in the Straits of Mackinac could affect a significant amount of shoreline and open-water areas in either Lake Michigan or Lake Huron, or both, very quickly.”

View Sandy’s photo bigger, see more in her aerial slideshow, and follow her on at Sandy Hansen Photography on Facebook.

 

Houghton Portage Lake Lift Bridge & Swing Bridge

Portage Lift Bridge

Portage Lake Lift Bridge, photo by Robert Michaud

One of the requests I recently received was for more yesterday and today features The City of Hancock has a truly excellent series of in-depth pictorials. You should really check them out! Their feature on the Portage Lake bridges says (in part):

In 1897, the Mineral Range Railroad Company built a new iron swing type bridge, replacing the old wooden bridge. This bridge also featured a two lane roadway, with a railroad crossing underneath. New reconstructed support cribs were also sunk. But on August 15, 1905, disaster struck, when the steamer Northern Wave (Mutual Transit Lines), en route to the Quincy Smelter to pick up copper ingots, smashed into the center section, destroying much of it. The mishap was apparently caused by a mixup in signals.

Original Portage Wooden Swing Bridge Taken from the north side of Ruppe Dock and Warehouse in Hancock, 1878
Original Portage Wooden Swing Bridge Taken from the north side of Ruppe Dock and Warehouse in Hancock, 1878

The bridge would be replaced one year later, again with an iron bridge, and center swing section, and a control house above the roadway, over the center turnstile. This new bridge would have 118 ft. of clearance on the north maritime passage, and 108 ft. on the south side passage. (Newspaper accounts of the period, gave maritime traffic at 6,000 bridge openings per year, and up to 40 daily train crossings per day, both of which began to taper off by 1920). Although almost struck again in 1940 by the Steamer Maritana (Hutchenson Lines), it narrowly avoided the collision by dropping its anchors which caught the submarine telephone cables, stopping it just short of the bridge. (This would happen again 20 years later). Light signaling was added during WWII, to augment the steam whistles already in use. The bridge served the communities until 1960.

In the late 1950s, the Michigan Department of Transportation began studies on how best to replace the aging bridge, with a more modern one, that would accommodate the now much larger ships plying the waterway. It was decided to build what would be become the worlds heaviest aerial lift bridge, which was under construction by 1959, just to the West of the then current bridge. This new bridge, with 4 traffic lanes above, and a railroad crossing below, had its ribbon cutting on Saturday, June 25, 1960. But it almost didn’t happen. During the night before, the Steamer J.F. Schoelkoff (American Steamship Company), traveling westward, signaled for the bridge to open, but the signals were not acted on. Dropping all their anchors, they snagged the submarine telephone cables in an eerie repeat of 20 years previously. Onlookers for the ribbon cutting ceremonies were treated to the spectacle of a large freighter jammed crossways in the waterway, just a quarter mile from the Bridge. Area phone service was disrupted for nearly three days. Telephone service to the bridge, and marine radios were installed shortly. That incident not withstanding, the new Portage Lake Lift Bridge continues to well serve the area, as the possibility of adding yet another new bridge may be explored.

Read on for more!

You can purchase this photo on Robert’s website and see more in his slideshow.

More bridges on Michigan in Pictures.

Ice on the Straits of Mackinac

Ice in St Ignace

Last week in St. Ignace, photo by Thomas Nighswander

Doesn’t look like we’ll get an ice bridge for snowmobiles to Mackinac Island this winter.

Click to view the photo bigger and follow him on Facebook and at National Photography Workshops.

More ice on Michigan in Pictures.

Below the Mighty Mac

Under the Mighty Mac

Mighty Mack, photo by vinnywalsh.com

Last week I shared how you can get driven across the Mackinac Bridge. Guessing you’re on your own if you want to cross the Straits of Mackinac at this level!

Vinny took this photo on Christmas Eve of 2005. If you want to check in with the current scene, the Mackinac Bridge Authority webcams have you covered with three different views.

Check his photo out bigger and see more at vinnywalsh.com.

Much more Mackinac Bridge on Michigan in Pictures.

News for the Nervous: Mackinac Bridge Driver’s Assistance Program

Mackinac Bridge Snow Winter

Mackinac Bridge, photo by Blondieyooper

Fun fact of the day: I have a mild fear of heights! While it’s not crippling enough to stop me from being able to drive over the Mighty Mac, I can definitely see where some people aren’t able to do that. For all of you, here’s a story (with a good video) about a little known service: The Mackinac Bridge Authority will drive you across!

The Mackinac Bridge Authority explains further:

The Mackinac Bridge Authority has a “Driver’s Assistance Program” that provides drivers for those uncomfortable with driving across the Mackinac Bridge. If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge. Instructions for using the phone are posted in the phone box. If you are southbound, just ask a fare collector for assistance. There is no additional fee for this service.

The phone is located on the shoulder of I-75 just north of the Jamet Street exit to Mackinaw City (near Audies Restaurant). You do not need to exit the freeway. Just past the exit, you can pull over to the right and park on the shoulder. The phone box is located on the right-of-way fencing. The box is green and easily spotted. If this is still unclear, please call us at 906-643-7600.

View Blondieyooper’s photo background big and see more in her Gotta Love Winter slideshow.

Lots more about the Mighty Mac on Michigan in Pictures.

A Tale of Two Bridges: History of Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge

Freighter Saginaw Under the Blue Water Bridge

Untitled, photo by Diane

The website Michigan History was produced by someone at MSU. While I have no idea who or why they gave up on what was shaping up to be a cool website, the history checks out. The page on Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge says:

Perhaps Port Huron’s greatest claim to fame is the Blue Water Bridge, a historic arcing bridge that serves as a means of transportation between Canada and the United States. The bridge is located over the St. Clair River, and connects Port Huron, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario. In 2013 the Blue Water Bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary, and a closer look at its history show why Port Huron residents take pride in the structure.

The original Blue Water Bridge was constructed in 1938, and was built by the American Bridge Company of New York, and the Hamilton Bridge Company of Ontario. The original bridge is an arch cantilever bridge, which was designed to not only support large amounts of traffic, but also to have an aesthetic arching look. In the late 1980s the border crossing became so popular that plans for a new bridge were brought up. However, instead of demolishing the old bridge, a new one was built in 1997 beside the old bridge, to support eastbound traffic.

The Michigan cost for building the new bridge, and renovating the old one was $62.6 million dollars. (Michigan Department of Transportation) The project was considered an enormous success and won awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Ontario Institution of Steel Construction, and the Federal Highway Administration. For Port Huron residents the bridge signifies the close connection with Canada, and the willingness of the two sides to work closely together.

Click for more about the history of Port Huron. If you want to get really in depth, The Construction History of the Blue Water Bridge (pdf) is an excellent account that details the political maneuverings and construction challenges of both bridges.

View Diane’s photo of the freighter Saginaw passing under the Blue Water Bridge background bigtacular and see more in her Freighters and the St. Clair River slideshow.

There’s more Michigan bridges on Michigan in Pictures, and since you’ve read this far, Boatnerd’s page on the Saginaw has everything you’ll want to know about the self-unloading bulk carrier that was launched May 9th, 1953 as the John J. Boland. It’s one of three near sister vessels built by this shipyard: The John G. Munson which is still plying the lakes and the Detroit Edison that suffered a career-ending grounding in Lake Michigan in December of 1980.