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M-86 / St. Joseph River

MDOT Historic Bridge St. Joseph County M-86 / St. Joseph River


City/Township: Three Rivers

Location: M-86 / St. Joseph River

Year Built: 1920

About this Bridge:
The M-86 Bridge is eligible for the National Register as a good example of a concrete-arch structure with unique detailing. The significance of this five-span concrete-arch bridge lies in its unique design. Of particular interest is the concrete fascia, which is molded to look like masonry blocks. The bridge is also a relatively long example of its type in the state.

The bridge's location as a gateway into downtown Three Rivers apparently accounts for the aesthetic treatment of the concrete. According to Three Rivers: the Early Years, a sesquicentennial history of the community, the bridge was built in 1903, making the structure a relatively early and substantial example of concrete-arch bridge construction. America's earliest reinforced concrete bridge, the Alvord Lake Bridge in San Francisco, was built in 1889, only fourteen years earlier. It, too, featured a filled spandrel arch design.

An historic photograph shows the original railings, consisting of three rows of horizontal pipes between pipe posts. In 1952, the Michigan Department of Transportation replaced the railings and the deck. Cracks and damage to the spandrel walls and arches were also repaired at that time.