Chevrolet Ave. / Flint River

MDOT Historic Bridge Genesee County Chevrolet Ave. / Flint River

County: Genesee

City/Township: Flint

Location: Chevrolet Ave. / Flint River

Year Built: 1917

About this Bridge:
Located just north of M-56, this concrete bridge carries Chevrolet Avenue over the Flint River. Known locally as the Chevrolet Bridge, the structure is situated next to the old Fisher Body Plant of Chevrolet and was the scene of a sit-down strike at the plant in the 1930s.

The bridge today has two, 75-foot, filled spandrel arches that spring from massive concrete abutments and a pier with bullnosed cutwaters. The elliptical arches feature tapered, continuous arch rings that are cast integrally with the concrete spandrel walls. The asphalt roadway is carried over earth fill and is flanked on both sides by concrete sidewalks. These are bounded by concrete guardrails that feature classical, cast-concrete balusters and decorative light standards.

Although the Chevrolet Bridge appears unaltered, it underwent a major change in the late 1960s, when the Army Corps of Engineers channelized the river as part of the Flint River Flood Control Project. A third arch span was then filled in and one of the original piers incorporated into the concrete channel to form an abutment. Since that time the Chevrolet Bridge has carried vehicular traffic unaltered.

In the late 1910s and 1020s the City of Flint associated with Indianapolis engineer Daniel B. Luten and the Illinois Bridge Company of Chicago for the design and construction of several concrete arch bridges to carry city street over Thread Creek, Swartz Creek and the Flint River. Luten designed the bridges, using a design standard that he had patented in 1905, and Illinois Bridge Built the structures. In April 1917 Luten delineated the Chevrolet Bridge, a three-span arch structure over the Flint River. The city contracted with Illinois Bridge to build the bridge, which was presumably completed the following year.

Since that time the Chevrolet Bridge has carried heavy traffic on this important inner-city artery, with its rehabilitation in the 1960s as the only alteration of note. The bridge’s Luten configuration, though typical of Flint bridges, was uncommon among highway bridges in Michigan. The Twelve-Mile Road Bridge in Calhoun County, identified by Charles Hyde as being built by the Illinois Bridge Company in 1907, may be the oldest Luten-design bridge in the state. The South Cass Street Bridge in Traverse City also uses a Luten configuration. No other Luthen arches outside of Flint have been identified by Michigan’s bridge inventories. The Chevrolet Bridge is distinguished as the oldest of the city’s six remaining Luten arch bridges. Although altered, it is a significant Michigan example of this important, though now rare, patented bridge type.