190th. Ave. / Little Muskegon River
City/Township: Althea Twp.
Location: 190th. Ave. / Little Muskegon River
Year Built: 1916
About this Bridge:
Located near the Montcalm County line, this medium-span concrete bridge carries 190th Avenue over the Little Muskegon River. The bridge was constructed in 1916-1917 from a MSHD standard design. It is comprised of a pair of 45-foot, concrete girders that rest on concrete full-height abutments and pier with bullnosed cutwaters. The girders support an 18-foot-wide concrete deck in the through position. Using typically modest MSHD detailing, the bridge features recessed rectangular panels on the outside walls of the girders, massive copings on the girders' tops, and bronze "Trunk Line Bridge" plates mounted on the girders' inside walls. The Little Muskegon River Bridge has suffered a minor amount of spalling of its copings and cutwater, but it is unaltered and retains a relatively high degree of structural integrity.
Soon after the state legislature passed the Trunk Line Act in 1913, several trunk line routes began to coalesce across Mecosta County. Following existing roads as they jogged along section lines, these routes were developed in relatively short, often discontinuous segments in the county. One of the newly designated trunk lines extended east from Big Rapids, through the village of Mecosta to the Isabella County line. The other extended south from Big Rapids to Howard City (in Montcalm County), passing through the village of Morley.
This latter line crossed the Little Muskegon River immediately south of Morley. For this crossing the state highway department engineered Trunk Line Bridge No. 61, a two-span concrete through girder structure. In 1916 a contract to build the bridge was awarded to E.W. Baldwin of St. Louis, Michigan. Baldwin completed the bridge in 1917 for a cost of $9,956.63. The Little Muskegon River Bridge was later incorporated into US-131, before being relegated to county-road status after a highway re-alignment. It continues to carry local traffic in essentially unaltered condition.
The concrete through girder that MSHD built here was based on a standard design that the agency had developed in the 1913-1914 biennium. During the 1910s and 1920s, the highway department delineated straight girders in five-foot increments between 30 and 50 feet for use in a wide variety of applications.
"The reinforced concrete through girder is the design generally employed for spans from thirty to fifty feet in both the eighteen and twenty-foot clear roadway from curb to curb," MSHD stated in its Seventh Bennial Report. "This design lends itself in the majority of cases on account of its very shallow floor system, thereby giving the waterway a maximum clearance under elevation of roadway crossing the bridge."
By 1930 the through girder had largely fallen out of favor with the state and county highway departments, but before it was discontinued, perhaps hundreds of these utilitarian structures were built throughout Michigan. The Little Muskegon River Bridge in Mecosta County is noteworthy as the oldest known surviving example of a concrete girder bridge designed by the Michigan State Highway Department.