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Portage Lake Lift Bridge rules changing for trial period this summer

ISHPEMING, Mich. - As part of ongoing efforts to alleviate congestion and improve mobility at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has secured a temporary deviation from the regulations governing operations of the bridge for this summer.

During a trial period running from May 26 through Sept. 6, the U.S. Coast Guard will allow MDOT to restrict openings to the top of the hour and the half hour from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for federal holidays. During this trial period, the bridge will continue to be opened on signal to pass any vessel more than 300 feet in length or any time five or more vessels gather at the bridge requesting an opening.

"Having the openings restricted to these scheduled times should help to create predictability for motorists to plan their travel," said MDOT Ishpeming Transportation Service Center Manager Rob Tervo. "Scheduled openings are commonly used for other bridges around the country to help with traffic flow and we hope that will be the case here as well."

"The Portage Canal is a federally regulated waterway," Tervo added. "So any permanent changes in operating schedule must be approved by the Coast Guard through a formal rulemaking process."

Throughout the summer, the Coast Guard will be accepting public comment for this temporary deviation to help determine if it should be made permanent. The entire Notice of Temporary Deviation, including instructions on how to leave comments, can be found at

In addition to operating the bridge for vessels, MDOT will lower the bridge to allow permitted oversized loads to cross on the lower deck, but these crossings are restricted to low-traffic times of day. MDOT also operates the bridge for routine maintenance, which is generally performed before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. when possible.

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