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Bridge bundling pilot program wraps up with St. Joseph project completion

Fast facts:

  • The Nottawa Road bridge in St. Joseph County reopened to traffic Tuesday, Nov. 22. It is the final bridge repaired under the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) bridge bundling pilot project.
  • The pilot encompassed major improvements to 19 locally owned bridges in 2022. All of the projects have now been largely completed.
  • MDOT's online dashboard at Michigan.gov/BridgeBundling allows the public to track details of the bridges and progress on the projects. An interactive graphic summarizes bridge information.

LANSING, Mich. ­- The Nottawa Road bridge in St. Joseph County, under repair since late August, reopened to traffic Tuesday as the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) bridge bundling pilot project reached its successful conclusion for the year.

The Nottawa Road bridge over the Prairie River, built in 1963, was in serious condition before repairs and had load restrictions posted.

All 19 local agency bridge bundling projects are now largely completed. All bridges encompassed by the program were reopened to traffic within short time frames, most within 60 or 90 days from the start of repairs.

This year's bridge bundling pilot project, the first of its kind in Michigan, repaired 19 bridges in serious or critical condition that are owned by local agencies. Each bridge had its superstructure replaced, including full removal and replacement of the bridge deck and supporting beams.

"The major success of this program was making a positive impact in 19 communities by building structures that can provide safe, reliable transportation for 40 or more years, and longer with recommended maintenance," said Rebecca Curtis, director of MDOT's Bureau of Bridges and Structures. "While these 19 bridges are only a small dent in the backlog of structures with serious needs, we were able to demonstrate that bridge bundling can be a successful way for MDOT to share our technical and programmatic experience with our local agency partners."

The pilot project was funded by Federal Highway Improvement Program (HIP) dollars. MDOT bridge staff and consultants did preliminary design and construction administration work for the bridge bundling program. The design-builder was a joint venture of two Michigan-based bridge contractors, C.A. Hull and Anlaan, which made the low bid of $24.3 million for the 19-bridge bundle. Alfred Benesch & Co. was the lead design firm for the design-build team.

Sue Datta, MDOT's senior project manager for the bridge bundling pilot, said the experience was a new one for MDOT, requiring the department to build trust in a non-traditional process.

"It went well due to the collaboration, trust, and mutual respect that we were able to build and develop amongst all the key participants," Datta said. "This made it a success, and a repeatable process for future bundles."

Datta said every local bridge owner was pleased with the work. Local agencies now have updated bridges built quickly with innovative technologies.

"Every bridge in the pilot was opened within a short time frame," Datta said. "All but two were opened earlier than contractually required. It isn't normal to be early on so many projects. This allowed us to restore traffic for the local communities faster and more efficiently."

An online dashboard at Michigan.gov/BridgeBundling provided project updates throughout the construction season and showed percent completion, detour routes, progress photos, and other detailed information for each project.

The pilot program was only the first phase of the bridge bundling initiative. $196 million in federal COVID relief funds appropriated by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Legislature will allow the state to execute Phase II of the bridge bundling program, now in preliminary phases, to address 59 more bridges beginning next year.

A list of the Phase II bridges, which were prioritized based on regional mobility and safety, is available online. Phase II focuses on closed and load-posted bridges. Some will be permanently removed while others will be fully replaced.

MDOT expects bridge bundling, which covers several bridge locations under one contract, to streamline coordination and permitting, increase economies of scale, and improve bridge conditions on local routes around the state.